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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - NASHVILLE — Three children and three adults have been killed in a shooting by an ex-student at a school in the US city of Nashville, Tennessee.
The attack took place at The Covenant School, a private Christian school for students aged three to 11. The three pupils who died were all aged nine.
Police said the suspect gained entry by shooting through a door at the school. A search of their home led to officers seizing more firearms.
The child victims have been named as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney. The adult victims were named as Cynthia Peak, 61, Katherine Koonce, 60, and Mike Hill, 61.
The suspect has been identified as 28-year-old Audrey Hale, officers said.
There has been some confusion about Hale’s gender identity — with police initially describing the attacker as a woman, and later saying that Hale identified as transgender.
A police spokesperson told Washington Post that Hale “is a biological woman who, on a social media profile, used male pronouns”.
The shooter was armed with three guns, including a semi-automatic rifle, and was shot dead by police.
They had left a manifesto and had drawn a detailed map of the school, with entry points. Police are now studying those documents.
Hale, who had no criminal record, was a former student at the school and officers said they believe “resentment” may have been a motive.
Police received the first call about the incident at 10:13 local time (15:13 GMT) on Monday. The suspect drove to the school and got in by firing through one of the school doors, which were all locked.
Video later released by Nashville police show Hale using a gun to gain entry by shattering glass panes on the front doors, then wandering the school’s deserted corridors — at one point walking past a room labeled “Children’s Ministry”.
In the CCTV footage, Hale is wearing what looks like a protective vest and carrying an assault-style rifle in one hand, with a second, similar weapon also visible hanging from the left hip.
Hale fired shots on the ground floor before moving to the upper floor. As police cars arrived, Hale fired on them, striking one in the windscreen, said police.
One officer was injured by broken glass. Police rushed inside and shot the suspect dead at 10:27.
A search of a nearby parked car led officers to “firmly believe” that Hale was a former student of the school, said police.
Police spoke with the attacker’s father during a search of a nearby home that was listed as the shooter’s address.
Nashville Police Chief John Drake said investigators there found a manifesto and “a map of how all of this was going to play out”, including entry and exit points at the school building.
He also said the shooter had conducted surveillance while planning the attack.
In a search of the shooter’s home, more weapons were recovered, in addition to the ones used in the attack, including a sawed-off shotgun and a second shotgun.
Hale’s mother, Norma Hale, told ABC News: “It is very, very difficult right now”, before asking for privacy.
The Presbyterian-affiliated Covenant School is located in the upmarket Green Hills neighborhood, south of central Nashville.
In a statement, the school said “our community is heartbroken”.
“We are grieving tremendous loss and are in shock coming out of the terror that shattered our school and church.”
The mother of one pupil said her son had been left traumatized. “I think he’s doing better now that he knows that the shooter is dead,” Shaundelle Brooks told BBC News.
“These are conversations we shouldn’t be having,” she added. “We’re failing our children.” Hours after the shooting, a memorial service for the victims was held at the nearby Woodmont Christian Church.
Senior minister Clay Stauffer tearfully said that Evelyn Dieckhaus’s sister, who is 11, had plans to be baptized in a few weeks, according to local outlet the Tennessean.
Evelyn’s sister cried as she said, “I don’t want to be an only child.”
President Joe Biden called the shooting a “family’s worst nightmare”.
“We have to do more to stop gun violence,” he said, once again urging Congress to pass tougher gun control laws. “It is ripping our communities apart, and ripping at the very soul of this nation.”
The attack was America’s 129th mass shooting of 2023, according to Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit that tracks gun violence data.
According to data compiled by Education Week, there have been 12 school shootings that have resulted in deaths or injuries in the US this year up until the end of last week. — BBC
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