Covenant School shooter was under care for emotional disorder and hid guns at home, police say

The 28-year-old who killed three children and three adults at a private Christian school in Nashville was under care for an emotional disorder and had legally bought seven firearms that were hidden at home, Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said Tuesday.

The parents of the shooter, Audrey Hale, spoke to police and said they knew Hale had bought and sold one weapon and believed that was the extent of it.

“The parents felt (Hale) should not own weapons,” the chief said.

On Monday morning, Hale left home with a red bag, and the parents asked what was inside but were dismissed, Drake said.

Three of the weapons were used in the attack Monday. The seven weapons were purchased between October 20, 2020 and June 6, 2022, police spokesman Don Aaron said.

Police also said Tuesday they did not know a motive. The shooter targeted the school and church in the attack but did not specifically target any of the six people killed, Aaron said. Hale’s writings mentioned a mall near the school as another possible target, he added.

The news conference came a day after Hale, a former student at the Covenant School, stormed into the elementary school and killed six people before being fatally shot by responding police officers.

The attack was the 19th shooting at an American school or university in 2023 in which at least one person was wounded, according to a CNN tally, and the deadliest since the May attack in Uvalde, Texas, left 21 dead. There have been 42 K-12 school shootings since Uvalde.

The victims included three 9-year-old students: Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney and Hallie Scruggs, the daughter of lead church pastor Chad Scruggs. Also killed were Cynthia Peak, 61, believed to be a substitute teacher; Katherine Koonce, the 60-year-old head of the school; and Mike Hill, a 61-year-old custodian, police said.

Over the course of Tuesday, the details of the heinous attack came into view as police released bodycam footage of the fatal shooting of the attacker, Hale’s childhood friend revealed the shooter’s disturbing messages and those who knew the victims reflected on their lost loved ones.

Police release bodycam footage of shooting

Earlier Tuesday, police released body-camera footage from the two officers who rushed into the Covenant School on Monday and fatally shot the mass shooter .

The footage is from the body-worn cameras of officers Rex Engelbert and Michael Collazo, who police said fatally shot the attacker on Monday at 10:27 a.m. The videos show a group of five officers entered the school amid wailing fire alarms and immediately went into several rooms to look for the suspect.

They heard gunfire on the second floor and so hustled up the stairs as the bangs grew louder, the video shows. The officers approached the sound of gunfire and Engelbert, armed with an assault-style rifle, rounded a corner and fired multiple times at a person near a large window, who dropped to the ground, the video shows.

Collazo then pushed forward and appeared to shoot the person on the ground four times with a handgun, yelling “Stop moving!” The officers finally approached the person, moved a gun away and then radioed “Suspect down! Suspect down!”

The video adds further insight into the timeline of the shooting and the police response. The first 911 call about the shooting came in at 10:13 a.m., and the shooter was killed 14 minutes later, according to police. The bodycam footage of Engelbert entering the school and shooting the attacker lasts about three to four minutes.

The Covenant school is a private Christian school educating about 200 students from Pre-K through 6th grade. The school is a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church, its website states.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper told CNN the swift police response prevented further disaster.

“It could have been worse without this great response,” the mayor of the police response. “This was very planned and numerous sites were investigated.”

The police chief similarly praised the response as swift.

“I was hoping this day would never ever come here in the city. But we will never wait to make entry and to go in and to stop a threat especially when it deals with our children,” Drake said in a Monday news conference.