Nashville police on Tuesday released footage showing officers firing multiple bullets at the suspected attacker in Monday's school shooting minutes after storming into the private Christian grade school with rifles and conducting a room-by-room search.
The six minutes of footage, taken from body-worn cameras from two of the responding officers, showed police clearing one classroom after another on the first floor before venturing up the stairs to the second floor.
Shots can be heard seconds before the suspect comes into view and drops to the floor after apparently being shot. One officer fires additional rounds into the assailant, who appears to be moving on the ground as another officer repeatedly yells, "Get your hands away from the gun!"
The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department began receiving calls about a shooter at 10:13 a.m., police spokesperson Don Aaron told reporters. The suspect was pronounced dead by 10:27 a.m.
"The police department response was swift," Aaron said.
Investigators were examining a "manifesto" written by the 28-year-old former student at the Covenant School, hoping to learn what motivated the latest U.S. mass shooting.
Police have identified the attacker as Audrey Elizabeth Hale.
"In Nashville, this is our worst day, but it could have been worse without this great response. We are very grateful for that," Nashville Mayor John Cooper said on Tuesday in an interview on CNN, noting that the attack was "clearly planned" by the assailant, based on the manifesto authorities found.
Authorities did not immediately offer a motive for the killings.
Monday's violence marked the 90th school shooting – defined as any incident in which a gun is discharged on school property – in the United States this year, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database, a website founded by researcher David Riedman. Last year saw 303 such incidents, the highest of any year in the database, which goes back to 1970.
During a previous press briefing, Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said Hale self-identified as being transgender, although Drake offered no further clarity. Drake and other officials repeatedly referred to the suspect with female pronouns. Hale used male pronouns on a LinkedIn page that listed recent jobs in graphic design and grocery delivery.
Among various pieces of evidence under examination by police and FBI agents conducting an investigation were some writings by the assailant, including the manifesto and a detailed, hand-drawn map of the school showing various entry points, Drake said.
Drake told NBC the manifesto "indicates there was going to be shootings at multiple locations and that the school was one of them." He said the Covenant School was singled out for attack but that the individual victims were targeted at random.
Investigators believe Hale harbored "some resentment for having to go to that school" as a child, he said without elaborating.
In an interview with NBC News, Drake elaborated on a posible motive: "There’s some belief that there was some resentment for having to go to that school. Don’t have all the details to that just yet and that’s why this incident occurred."
'THE TIME IS NOW'
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday noted that President Joe Biden has already taken multiple gun-related actions by executive order but that more needs to be done by lawmakers to enact comprehensive gun safety laws, including a renewed ban on assault weapons.
"We need Republicans in Congress to show some courage," she told MSNBC in an interview. "Enough, enough, enough."
Hours after the shooting, Biden urged lawmakers to pass tougher gun reform legislation.
"They need to act. The time is now," Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday.
Hale, armed with two assault-style weapons, one of them a rifle, as well as a 9 millimeter pistol, gained entry to the school by shooting through the window of a side door, authorities said.
Surveillance camera video posted online by police shows the suspect, wearing camouflage pants and a black vest over a white T-shirt with a red baseball cap on backwards, blasting through the glass pane of an outer door after driving up to the building in a car. The footage then shows the assailant stalking through a hallway as alarm lights flash.
The three slain school children, all age 9, were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney. Also shot dead were Mike Hill, 61, a school custodian; Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher; and Katherine Koonce, 60, listed on the Covenant website as "head of school."
The Covenant School, founded in 2001, is a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church in the Green Hills neighborhood of Tennessee's state capital, with about 200 students, according to the school's website. The school serves preschool through sixth graders and held an active-shooter training program in 2022, local television station WTVF-TV reported.
© 2023 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.