Children from The Covenant School in Nashville hold hands as they are taken to a reunification site on March 27. Jonathan Mattise/AP
The serene sense of safety inside The Covenant School in Nashville was shattered Monday when a former student burst into the private Christian school wielding an assault-style rifle and unleashed a hailstorm of bullets, killing three 9-year-old children and three adults.
The shooter, 28-year-old Audrey Hale, was later gunned down by police. Authorities believe the six victims were targeted randomly. And while the killer left behind writings about the planned attack, the motive remains a mystery.
Here’s how the tragic day unfolded:
Hale sends an ominous message to childhood friend Averianna Patton on Instagram, Patton told CNN on Tuesday.
The direct message from Hale said, “I’m planning to die today” and that Patton would see it on the news.
“One day this will make more sense,” Hale also wrote. “I’ve left more than enough evidence behind. But something bad is about to happen.”
Patton said she didn’t know why she received the message. “I knew her well when we were kids, when we were younger,” said Patton, who played youth basketball with Hale. “I didn’t know the adult Audrey.”
Disturbed by the message, Patton contacted her father for advice. He suggested she call a suicide prevention line for assistance, which she did. But because Patton was not the person at risk of harming herself, the call recipient advised Patton to contact local law enforcement, she said.
Patton calls the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office in Nashville but was on hold for “maybe like 7 minutes,” she said. By then, the deadly rampage at Covenant School had already started.
The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department receives a call about an active shooter inside the school.
Surveillance video shows the shooter entering the school by firing through glass doors and climbing through.
Timestamped surveillance footage from inside the school shows Hale armed with multiple weapons walking down a hallway.
Nashville officers arrive at the school, Police Chief John Drake said.
Bodycam footage shows police entering the school amid wailing fire alarms and immediately going to several rooms to look for the shooter.
Officers hear gunfire on the second floor and rush up the stairs as the shots grow louder, the video shows.
Officer Rex Engelbert sees the shooter and fires about four rounds with an assault-style rifle. His bodycam footage shows the attacker collapsing.
Officer Michael Collazo then moved toward the shooter while it appeared a gun was still in the assailant’s hand. Collazo appeared to shoot the attacker on the ground four times with a handgun, yelling “Stop moving!” The officers finally approached the assailant, moved a gun away and then radioed “Suspect down! Suspect down!”
After the mass shooting, three weapons were found – an AR-15, a Kel-Tec SUB 2000, and a handgun. Investigators believe Hale got at least two of the weapons legally, Nashville’s police chief said.
A search warrant executed at Hale’s home led to the seizure of a sawed-off shotgun, a second shotgun and other evidence, police said. Authorities also learned Hale had legally purchased seven firearms since October 2020.
Hale left writings related to the shooting and had scouted another possible attack location in Nashville – “but because of a threat assessment by the suspect – there’s too much security – decided not to,” Drake said.
The police chief also addressed the roughly 11-minute gap between when police received the first call of an active shooter and when officers arrived at the school.
“From what I’ve seen, I don’t have a particular problem with it,” Drake told reporters Tuesday, adding that “traffic was locked down.”
“But we always want to get better,” he said. “We always want to get there in two or three minutes.”
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