The United States of America President, Joe Biden has bemoaned the death of six people in a shooting by an ex-student at a school in the city of Nashville, Tennessee by calling it a “family’s worst nightmare”.
“We have to do more to stop gun violence, it is ripping our communities apart, and ripping at the very soul of this nation.” ” he said, once again urging Congress to pass tougher gun control laws.
The attack which took place at the Covenant School, a private Christian school for students aged three to 11 resulted in the death of three children and three adults.
The three pupils who died were all aged nine, and identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney.
The adult victims were named Cynthia Peak, 61; Katherine Koonce, 60; and Mike Hill, 61.
According to Police, the suspect, identified as 28-year-old Audrey Hale, gained entry by shooting through a door at the school, with a search leading to the discovery of more firearms.
There has been some confusion about Hale’s gender identity with police initially describing the attacker as a woman, and later saying that Hale identified as transgender.
A police spokesperson said that Hale “is a biological woman who, on a social media profile, used male pronouns.”
The shooter was armed with three guns, including a semi-automatic rifle, and was shot dead by police.
Hale, who had no criminal record, was a former student at the school and officers said they believe “resentment” may have been a motive.
Police received the first call about the incident at 10:13 local time (15:13 GMT) on Monday when the suspect drove to the school and got in by firing through one of the school doors, which were all locked.
Video later released by Nashville police shows the suspect using a gun to gain entry by shattering glass panes on the front doors, then wandering the school’s deserted corridors – at one point walking past a room labelled “Children’s Ministry”.
In the CCTV footage, Hale is wearing what looks like a protective vest and carrying an assault-style rifle in one hand, with a second, similar weapon also visible hanging from the left hip.
Hale fired shots on the ground floor before moving to the upper floor.
As police cars arrived, Hale fired on them, striking one in the windscreen, said police.
One officer was injured by broken glass. Police rushed inside and shot the suspect dead at 10:27.
A search of a nearby parked car led officers to “firmly believe” that Hale was a former student of the school, said police.
Nashville Police Chief, John Drake said investigators there found a manifesto and “a map of how all of this was going to play out”, including entry and exit points at the school building.
He also said the shooter had conducted surveillance while planning the attack.
In a search of the shooter’s home, more weapons were recovered, in addition to the ones used in the attack, including a sawed-off shotgun and a second shotgun.
The Presbyterian-affiliated Covenant School is located in the upmarket Green Hills neighbourhood, south of central Nashville.
In a statement, the school said “our community is heartbroken”
“We are grieving tremendous loss and are in shock coming out of the terror that shattered our school and church.”
Hours after the shooting, a memorial service for the victims was held at the nearby Woodmont Christian Church.
The attack was America’s 129th mass shooting of 2023, according to Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit that tracks gun violence data.
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