Three children and three staff members — whose ages ranged from 9 to 61 — were killed at a private Christian school in Nashville on Monday before the shooter, a heavily armed 28-year-old woman, was killed by police, authorities said.
The shooting unfolded at The Covenant School on Burton Hills Boulevard where officers “engaged” the attacker, described by Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake as a former student at the school.
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“At one point she was a student at that school, but unsure what year,” he said.
The shooter was identified as Audrey Hale, 28, a Nashville resident, three law enforcement officials briefed on the matter told NBC News.
The shooter was killed on the school’s second floor, a police spokesperson said. She had two “assault-type rifles and a handgun,” according to the official.
The three students who were killed were all 9 years old and identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney, police tweeted. The three faculty members were Cynthia Peak, 61, Katherine Koonce, 60, and Mike Hill, 61, the police said.
Koonce, a Vanderbilt graduate who had a doctorate in education, was listed as the head of school on its website.
Students of the school, which serves preschool students through sixth graders, were bused to Woodmont Baptist Church, two miles away, to be reunited with their parents after the shooting.
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Police said they first got calls about the shooter at 10:13 a.m. CT and Nashville firefighters first reported their personnel were responding to an “active aggressor” at 10:39 a.m. CT.
“The police department response was swift,” police spokesperson Don Aaron told reporters.
“They heard shots coming from the second level. They immediately went to the gunfire. When the officers got to the second level, they saw a shooter, a female, who was firing. The officers engaged her. She was fatally shot by responding police officers.”
Five police officers came upon the shooter, and two opened fire, Aaron said. The shooter entered the school through a “side entrance” on the first floor, he added.
“By 10:27 the shooter was deceased,” Aaron said.
It was not clear how the shooter gained access to the school.
“There was a door that was entered. All doors were locked, to our understanding, and how exactly she got in, at this point, is still under investigation,” Drake said.
One officer was hurt by shattered glass, officials said.
The names and ages of the victims have not been released. The chief said the families of all six victims had been notified.
“Right now I will refrain from saying the ages, other than to say I was literally moved to tears to see this and the kids as they were being ushered out of the building,” Drake said.
Shortly after police announced the shooter was dead, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation also said “there is no current threat to public safety.”
The Covenant School employs 33 teachers with an 8-to-1 student-to-instructor ratio, according to its website.
On a normal day of class, there would be 209 students and 42 staff members on campus, Aaron said.
The school was founded in 2001 as a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church, and shares the same address as the church.
The fire department helped usher the children out of the school, carefully trying to help them from seeing the carnage.
“We were on scene to help them mitigate anyone from seeing exactly what else was going on,” fire department spokesperson Kendra Loney said. “But we’re sure they heard the chaos surrounding this.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Joe Biden has been briefed on the school shooting.
In a statement, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said: “I am closely monitoring the tragic situation at Covenant. As we continue to respond, please join us in praying for the school, congregation & Nashville community.”
The gunfire in Nashville on Monday follows multiple shootings on campuses across the country.
Just days ago, a 17-year-old suspect wounded two administrators at a Denver high school before he was found dead.
In February, three students were gunned down at Michigan State University.
And in January, two students were fatally shot at a charter school in Des Moines, Iowa.
Dr. Adrienne Battle, director of Metro Nashville Public Schools, referred to the shootings in a statement.
“We don’t know all of the details of how or why this happened, and we may never fully know,” she said. “At Metro Schools, we have invested considerable resources to strengthen security at our facilities in response to the far too many, far too often instances of school shootings across the nation over the years. We will continue to reinforce our safety protocols and monitor and follow best practices on keeping students safe from harm.”