Nashville shooting: As more details emerge on how Nashville school shooting unfolded, expert says teachers’ quick thinking saved lives
As more details emerge about how a deadly mass shooting unfolded at a private Christian school in Nashville, a former police officer who provided active shooter training at the school said the actions teachers who closed classrooms helped save lives.
The shooter who entered The Covenant School on Monday fired multiple bullets into multiple classrooms but did not hit any student inside classrooms, “because teachers knew exactly what to do, how to fortify their doors and where to place their children in those rooms,” security consultant Brink Fidler told CNN.
“Their ability to literally perform flawlessly under such an amount of stress while someone tries to murder them and their children is what stood out here,” Fidler said.
“These teachers are the reason these children have returned home to their families,” he added.
Six people were killed in Monday morning’s school shooting. They were three 9-year-old students: Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney and Hallie Scruggs. The adults killed were Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher; Katherine Koonce, the school’s principal, 60; and Mike Hill, a 61-year-old caretaker, police said.
All of the victims who were hit by gunfire were in an open area or in a hallway, said Fidler, who toured the school with officials on Wednesday.
“The only victims this shooter was able to reach were victims stuck in some sort of open area or hallway,” Fidler said. “Several were able to evacuate safely. Those who could not do so safely did exactly what they had been taught and trained to do.
While the shooter had targeted the school, the victims are believed to have been shot at random, police said.
Officers who rushed into the school and shot the attacker, 28-year-old Audrey Hale, ending the 14 minutes of terror that unfolded at the school are also credited with saving lives.
“We had heroic officers who put themselves in harm’s way to stop this and we could have talked about more tragedy than we are,” Drake told CNN on Wednesday.
The response from law enforcement in Nashville contrasts with the response in Uvalde, Texas, where there was a delay of more than an hour before authorities confronted and killed the shooter. The Uvalde attack killed 21 people.
Monday’s school shooting in Nashville was the deadliest US school shooting since last May’s Uvalde massacre. It was also the 19th shooting at a school or university in the last three months alone that left at least one person injured, according to a CNN tally.
A Nashville councilman also said a witness told him Koonce, the principal of the Covenant School, spent her last moments trying to protect the children in her care.
“The witness said Katherine Koonce was on a Zoom call, heard the gunshots and abruptly ended the Zoom call and left the office. The assumption from there is that she headed towards the shooter,” Councilman Russ Pulley said. He did not identify the witness.
Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said he couldn’t confirm Koonce’s death, but said, “I know she was alone in the hallway. There was a confrontation, I’m sure. You can tell the way she’s lying in the hallway.
Fidler said Koonce insisted on training school staff on how to respond during an active shooter situation.
“She understood the seriousness of the subject and the seriousness of teachers needing to know what to do in this situation,” he said.
Koonce and the other victims were honored at a citywide vigil in Nashville on Wednesday, where residents gathered to pray and mourn.
“It’s such a tragedy and felt so deeply by everyone here,” said Nashville resident Eliza Hughes. “Nashville is a close-knit community. We definitely feel the drama. It’s an awful situation.
After the shooting, police discovered Hale had detailed maps of the Covenant School – which the shooter had attended as a child – and “quite a few” writings related to the shooting, according to the police chief.
The FBI, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and police combed through the cards and writings left by Hale, including looking at a notebook, Drake said.
Authorities called the attack “calculated,” with Drake saying Wednesday that the maps “featured a display of entering the school, a route that would be taken for whatever was going to be done.”
The shooter also reportedly received weapons training and arrived at the school heavily armed and prepared for a confrontation with law enforcement, police said.
But as details of the pre-planning are uncovered, it remains unclear what prompted the attack. Drake said police met with the school and found no indication that Hale had any trouble while attending the Covenant.
Hale had been in care for an emotional disorder and had legally purchased seven firearms over the past three years, but they were kept hidden from Hale’s parents, Drake said. Three of the weapons, including an AR-15 rifle, were used in Monday’s attack.
Tennessee does not have a “red flag” law that would allow a judge to temporarily seize firearms from someone deemed a threat to themselves or others.
The police chief said law enforcement had not previously been contacted about the shooter and that Hale had never been committed to an institution.
Hale’s childhood friend Averianna Patton told CNN on Tuesday that the killer sent her disturbing messages minutes before the attack, saying “I plan to die today” and it would be on the news.
Patton called the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office in Nashville but was put on hold for “maybe 7 minutes,” she said. By then, filming had already begun.
Asked about the messages, Drake told CNN: “If their timeline was accurate, the actual call came after the officer had already arrived on the scene. So that has no bearing on that.
“The moment we received the call, we responded immediately to the scene. Officers pulled over, took shots, pulled out the gun, went inside, didn’t wait,” Drake said.
The shooter entered the school by shooting glass doors and climbing to get inside, according to surveillance videos. The first call about the shooting came at 10:13 a.m. and police arrived at the scene at 10:24 a.m., according to the police chief.
Body camera footage of the first officers to respond shows them rushing and cleaning classrooms before rushing to the second floor of the school, where an officer armed with an assault rifle fired multiple times at the ‘aggressor. The shooter was dead at 10:27 a.m., police said.
Police called Hale a “shooter,” and later said Hale was transgender. Hale used male pronouns on a social media profile, a spokesperson told CNN when asked to clarify.
Nashville residents gathered for a citywide vigil on Wednesday to mourn the victims, pray and share their grief.
First lady Jill Biden was in attendance, as was singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow, who performed her song “I Shall Believe” to the grieving crowd.
“Nashville had the worst today,” Mayor John Cooper told the crowd. “Our heart is broken. Our city has united as we mourn together.
The police chief also addressed the community, saying a school shooting like the one officers faced at Covenant School on Monday is a time officers have been training for but hope never arrive.
“Our police have wept and wept with Nashville and the world,” Drake said.
As the community mourns, families mourn their loved ones lost in the shooting.
William, one of the children killed, had an “imperturbable spirit”, friends of the Kinney family shared on GoFundMe.
Hallie’s aunt Kara Arnold said the 9-year-old had “a love for life that kept her smiling, running, jumping, playing and always on the move”.
Evelyn’s family called her “a shining light in this world”.
The family of Hill, a father of seven and grandfather of 14, remembered his love for cooking and spending time with his family.
“Violence has visited our city and brought grief and pain. In the midst of grief, we still seek hope,” Tennessee Representative Reverend Harold M. Love, Jr. said as he ended the vigil with a prayer.