On Monday, March 27, 2023, Audrey Elizabeth Hale, a 28-year-old resident of Nashville, Tennessee, killed six people in a mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville. The victims included three children and three adults. The children, Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, were all nine years old. The adults included 60-year-old Katherine Koonce, the head of school, and 61-year-olds Cynthia Peak and Mike Hill, a substitute teacher and custodian, respectively.
Hale’s vehicle was seen on surveillance footage arriving at the school parking lot at 9:53 a.m. By 10:10 a.m., Hale was seen entering the building after shooting through the front door. The first of many 911 calls was received by Nashville Police at 10:13 a.m. and within eight minutes the first responding officers arrived at the school, entering the building two minutes after. At 10:24 a.m., five officers reached the second level of the building and made their way towards the shooter, using the sound of gunfire as a guide. Within the next minute two officers were able to engage with the shooter, and by 10:27 a.m., Hale was declared dead.
Chief John Drake of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said in an interview, “We always hoped it would never happen in Nashville, but we trained on the possibility it could always happen. We know we have to keep moving toward the threat, and we knew that we had to go in and we could not wait.” Other shootings, have sparked changes in police training and tactics, as seen through the quick response by the Nashville Police. A particularly deadly shooting in Uvalde, Tennessee especially influenced the Nashville Police in changing their training and now serves as an example of what not to do. Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, remarked “I saw officers who were trained, officers who moved quickly and seemed to get to the heart of the problem fairly quickly. The message of Uvalde is that you go as fast as you can, as quickly as you can, and that’s what I saw.”
Chief William Swann of the Nashville Fire Department said, “If you don’t have adequate training, your emotions will get involved, and if you allow your emotions to get involved, you’ll get in trouble,” adding that this can be especially true during a school shooting. He said that 17 joint active training sessions with his fire department, police officers, and other officials were held during 2022, the most recent a week before the shooting, with approximately 11 of them located in a middle school building because of the threat of mass shootings. The large number of trainings were included due to an increase in coordination between emergency management and law enforcement in Nashville with the wave of attacks and natural disasters presented in the last few years.
Hale, the shooter, had been described as “obsessive” and “stalkerish” by a former teammate of the 2008–2009 Isaiah T. Creswell middle school girls’ basketball team when it came to her and the team. A teammate also shared stories of her odd, stalker-like behavior towards her, and a classmate shared a story of her obsessiveness towards the old team. At 9:57 a.m. on the day of the shooting, Hale sent an Instagram message to Averianna Patton, a former teammate, that said “I’m planning to die today. You’ll probably hear about me on the news after I die.” Patton called the police. According to Chief Drake, Hale had been receiving treatment for an “emotional disorder” and was in possession of seven legally purchased firearms.
Fourteen minutes elapsed in the time it took for the first 911 call to be made and the shooter’s death to be declared. Wexler warned, though, that “The cautionary tale is that Nashville was prepared for what they encountered — not every agency, particularly in rural parts of the country, will have the resources.”