By Jonathan Allen and Joseph Axe
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – The former Nashville Christian elementary school student who killed three 9-year-old boys and three adults in a shooting was under a doctor’s care for an “emotional disorder” and had amassed a collection of guns, the city’s police chief said on Tuesday.
New details about the attacker Audrey Elizabeth Hale, 28, emerged hours after police released a harrowing video showing officers storming Covenant School amid Monday’s rampage and conducting a room-by-room search before confronting and fatally shoot Hale.
Authorities said they were still trying to pinpoint a motive as detectives pored over various writings and other evidence left behind by Hale.
Hale was armed with two assault weapons and a handgun, the latest in a long line of mass shootings across the United States that have turned schools into killing zones and fueled a national debate about gun rights and regulations.
The three guns used Monday were among seven firearms Hale had legally purchased over the past few years from five Nashville-area stores, Nashville Metropolitan Police Chief John Drake told reporters.
Hale’s parents were unaware that Hale owned multiple firearms, mistakenly believing Hale only owned one gun, then sold it, Drake said. The chief added that the mother and father felt Hale should not own guns due to mental health issues.
The mother, seeing Hale leave the house with a red purse on Monday morning, had wondered what was in the purse, the boss said.
Hale “was under treatment, a doctor’s care, for an emotional disorder,” the chief told reporters at a news conference, without elaborating.
Under Tennessee law, mental illness is not a reason for police to confiscate guns, unless a person is found mentally incompetent by a court, “judicially committed” to a mental institution “or placed under guardianship” a due to a mental defect”.
Tennessee prohibits the sale of guns to persons deemed by a court or other legal authority to pose a danger to themselves or others, or who are unable to conduct their business due to mental illness. But simply being under the care of a doctor would not, by itself, reach that threshold.
Drake said it appeared that Hale had some sort of weapons training. Hale shot officers on the second floor of the school as they arrived in patrol cars as they backed away from the large windows to avoid becoming an easy target.
MANIFESTO AND QUESTIONS WITHOUT ANSWERS
Hale left a detailed map of the school showing entry points and what Drake described as a “manifesto” indicating Hale may have planned to carry out shootings at other locations.
On Monday, Drake said Hale identified as a transgender person and said investigators believe the suspect harbored “a certain amount of resentment that he had to attend” Covenant School as a child.
The chief declined to elaborate and did not say what role, if any, Hale’s gender identity, educational background, or other social or religious dynamics may have played. Investigators “don’t have a motive right now,” he said Tuesday.
The shooting came weeks after the Tennessee legislature thrust the state to the forefront of a political furor over LGBTQ rights by voting to ban gender-affirming medical treatment for transgender children and to impose new restrictions on drag performances.
The suspect’s LinkedIn page, which lists recent jobs in graphic design and grocery delivery, showed Hale’s preferred masculine pronouns.
The six minutes of footage released on Monday, edited together from the body-worn cameras of two responding officers, offered a glimpse of the rampage as it unfolded. The video opens with an officer retrieving a shotgun from his trunk as a staff member tells him the school is closed but two children are reported missing.
“Let’s go! I need three!” the officer yells as he enters the building, where alarms are heard.
The video shows officers clearing room after room before making their way upstairs, where one says, “We’ve got one down.”
Amidst the sound of gunfire, officers race down the corridor – past what appears to be a victim lying on the ground – and into a lounge area, where the suspect is seen falling to the floor after being shot.
The two officers whose body-worn cameras provided the footage both fired several shots at the suspect. The video shows the assailant still moving on the floor as another officer repeatedly yells, “Get your hands off the gun!”
According to a police incident timeline, only 14 minutes had passed since the first reports of a police shooting that neutralized the suspect.
According to the K-12 School Shooting Database, a website founded by researcher David Riedman, Monday’s violence marked the 90th school shooting — defined as any incident in which a gun is discharged onto school property — in the United States this year. . There were 303 such incidents last year, the most of any year in the database, which dates back to 1970.
The three children killed on Monday were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney. The three adults killed were Katherine Koonce, 60, the school principal; Mike Hill, 61, caretaker; and Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher.
The Covenant School, founded in 2001, serves about 200 kindergarten through sixth grade students in the Green Hills neighborhood of the Tennessee state capital, according to the school’s website.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in Nashville and Joseph Ax in New York; Additional reporting by Tyler Clifford, Rich McKay, Brad Brooks and Brendan O’Brien; Screenplay by Joseph Ax and Steve Gorman; Editing by Mark Porter and Leslie Adler)