NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Editor's Note: The Metro Nashville Police Department originally said three 9-year-old children died in the shooting. During a press conference later, they said one of those children was 8 years old. At 11:53 p.m., MNPD published a press release that said three 9-year-olds died.
Seven people died—including three 9-year-olds, three adult victims and the suspected shooter—after a shooting at a private Nashville school, according to police.
The Metro Nashville Police Department said the first reports of a shooting at The Covenant School came in at 10:13 a.m. CDT. The school is located just south of Vanderbilt University in the Green Hills neighborhood of Nashville, and students range from preschool through sixth grade.
MNPD identified the children who died as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney. The adult victims were identified as Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher, Katherine Koonce, 60, and Mike Hill, 61.
According to NBC News, three law enforcement officials briefed on the matter identified the suspected shooter as Audrey Hale. Police said the 28-year-old was shot and killed after two officers opened fire. Hale was armed with at least two "assault-type rifles" and a handgun, according to MNPD.
MNPD initially said the suspected shooter appeared to be in their teens. According to MNPD Chief John Drake, Hale was a former student of the school and had no criminal history.
During a press conference on Monday, Drake was also asked by a reporter whether the shooter identified as transgender. Drake said that they believed the shooter was a transgender person. More specific information about the shooter’s gender identity was not available as of Monday evening.
WBIR usually does not report on the gender identity of shooters in mass shooting incidents unless relevant to the story. However, Drake was asked whether this person being transgender was relevant to the motive, and he said “we can give you that at a later time. There is some theory to that. We are investigating all the leads and once we know exactly we’ll let you know.”
He did call it a "targeted attack" and said that police found 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 of how this was all going to take place. There is right now a theory that we may be able to talk about later, but it's not confirmed."
For that reason, WBIR is including this information. If Hale’s gender identity is deemed to not be relevant, this information will be removed from our reporting.
Drake also said that authorities also did not know of any history of mental illness, but said they were investigating the shooter's mental health history.
“We have a manifesto. We have some writings that we’re going over that pertain to this date -- the actual incident,” Drake said.
Police said the shooter entered the school from a side door and opened fire on the second floor. Hale was shot by police at 10:27 a.m. CDT, MNPD said.
Children and staff evacuated to the nearby First Baptist Church in Woodmont.
"I was literally moved to tears to see this and the kids as they were being ushered out of the building,” Chief Drake said. "Whenever I hope we would never have this situation... that if we ever did, we would not wait. We would immediately go in and immediately engage the person perpetrating this horrible crime."
Three pediatric patients were transported to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt with gunshot wounds. All three were pronounced dead when they arrived, according to VUMC spokesperson John Howser.
Police said two of the adult victims were also taken to the hospital and later were pronounced dead. One other adult victim was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police said one of the responding officers was cut by glass at the scene and was the only person known to be hurt in the incident.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said it's assisting in the investigation of the shooting.
President Joe Biden praised law enforcement for their swift response, describing the shooting as "sick" and calling on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban.
"It's heartbreaking. A family's worst nightmare. And I want to commend the police who responded incredibly swiftly -- in minutes -- to end the danger," he said. "We have to do more to stop gun violence. It's ripping our communities apart. It's ripping at the very soul of the nation. We have to do more to protect our schools so they aren't turned into prisons."
Moms Demand Action, a movement advocating for gun restrictions across the country, also released several statements about the shooting. Shannon Watts, the founder of the movement, released the following statement.
“School shootings are not acts of nature — they’re manmade acts of cowardice enabled by lawmakers who have accepted children being shot in their school as an acceptable price to pay for the support of the gun industry,” she said. “In America and in Tennessee, guns are the leading killer of kids yet Tennessee lawmakers have done nothing but gut gun safety laws, putting gun industry profits ahead of the safety of our children. We don’t have to live this way and our children certainly don’t have to die this way.”
Another spokesperson with the movement said he was "furious" and "disgusted" by the tragedy. Jason Sparks said he was a survivor of a previous shooting, and was a father of two children in Nashville schools.
"If you're not going to listen to the people that have to clean up your mess from these gun laws, I don't know who you're gonna listen to," said Sparks. "I would love to tell my kids that, 'Hey, this isn't going to happen to you. But it's tough to show them, I mean, they see multiple armed guards in front of our synagogue. Their school has an SRO going through the whole place. There's lockdowns where they search lockers and stuff. You can't lie to kids, they see this every day."
Gov. Bill Lee released a statement regarding the shooting.
"As we continue to respond, please join us in praying for the school, congregation and Nashville community," Lee said.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper said, "Nashville joined the dreaded, long list of communities to experience a school shooting."
Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton also tweeted about the incident.
"With many families and colleagues impacted by the tragedy today, we will only meet briefly tonight and move all legislation to a later date," Sexton said.