NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A former student shot through the doors of a Christian elementary school and killed three children and three adults after elaborately planning the massacre by drawing out a detailed map and conducting surveillance of the building, police said.
The victims at The Covenant School in Nashville included three 9-year-old children, the school’s top administrator, a substitute teacher and a custodian. Panicked parents rushed to the school to see if their children were safe and tearfully hugged their kids.
“I was literally moved to tears to see this and the kids as they were being ushered out of the building,” Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake said Monday during one of several news conferences.
Drake did not give a specific motive when asked by reporters but gave chilling examples of the shooter’s prior planning for the targeted attack.
“We have a manifesto, we have some writings that we’re going over that pertain to this date, the actual incident,” he said. “We have a map drawn out of how this was all going to take place.”
He said in an interview with NBC News that investigators believe the shooter had “some resentment for having to go to that school.”
The shooter gained entry by firing into glass doors on the building, shattering them, police later said in a tweet.
The shooter was armed with two “assault-style” weapons as well as a handgun, authorities said. At least two of them were believed to have been obtained legally in the Nashville area, according to the chief.
The victims were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, all 9 years old, and adults Cynthia Peak, 61; Katherine Koonce, 60; and Mike Hill, 61.
The website of The Covenant School, a Presbyterian school founded in 2001, lists Katherine Koonce as the head of the school. Her LinkedIn profile says she has led the school since July 2016. Peak was a substitute teacher and Hill was a custodian, according to investigators.
Students held hands as they walked to school buses, which drove them to a nearby church to be reunited with their parents.
Rachel Dibble, who was at the church as families found their children, described the scene as everyone being in “complete shock.”
“People were involuntarily trembling,” said Dibble, whose children attend a different private school in Nashville. “The children … started their morning in their cute little uniforms, they probably had some Froot Loops and now their whole lives changed today.”
Founded as a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church — which is affiliated with the conservative evangelical Presbyterian Church in America — The Covenant School is located in the affluent Green Hills neighborhood just south of downtown Nashville.
The school has about 200 students from preschool through sixth grade, as well as roughly 50 staff members.
“Our community is heartbroken,” a statement from the school said. “We are grieving tremendous loss and are in shock coming out of the terror that shattered our school and church. We are focused on loving our students, our families, our faculty and staff and beginning the process of healing.”
Monday's tragedy unfolded over roughly 14 minutes. Police received the initial call about an active shooter at 10:13 a.m.
Officers began clearing the first story of the school when they heard gunshots coming from the second level, Aaron said during a news briefing. Police later said in a tweet that the shooter fired at arriving officers from a second-story window and had come armed with significant ammunition.
Two officers from a five-member team opened fire in response, fatally shooting the suspect at 10:27 a.m., Aaron said. One officer had a hand wound from cut glass.
Late Monday night, police released approximately two minutes of edited surveillance video showing the shooter’s car driving up to the school from multiple angles, including one in which children can be seen playing on swings in the background. Next an interior view shows glass doors to the school being shot out and the shooter ducking through one of the shattered doors.
More footage from inside shows the shooter walking through a school corridor holding a gun with a long barrel and walking into a room labeled “church office,” then coming back out. In the final part of the footage, the shooter can be seen walking down another long corridor with the gun drawn. The shooter is not seen interacting with anyone else on the video, which has no sound.
Aaron said there were no police officers present or assigned to the school at the time of the shooting because it is a church-run school.
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