How another elementary school shooting is affecting communities

On March 27 a shooter opened fire at The Covenant School, killing three children and three adults. Abigail Byington | Sun News Daily

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A shooting at The Covenant School, a private Christian elementary, in Nashville, Tennessee, left many feeling devastated and scared. 

During the morning of March 27, a 28-year-old former student at The Covenant School, Audrey Hale, shot and killed three children and three adults. Hale was also shot and killed by police on the second floor of the elementary school. 

The victims

The victims of the shooting include from top left to bottom right: 

  • Katherine Koonce; 60 years old
  • Mike Hill; 61 years old 
  • Cynthia Peak; 61 years old 
  • Evelyn Dieckaus; nine years old 
  • Hallie Scruggs; nine years old 
  • William Kinney; nine years old (not pictured)
According to CNN, photos from The Covenant School/Covenant Presbyterian Church/Facebook/KMOV/Dieckhaus Family

Koonce was an educator at The Covenant School and Hill was a beloved custodian for 14 years. He was also a part of kitchen staff and other facilities. Hill was a father of seven.

Peak was a substitute teacher at the school. Dieckhaus, Scruggs and Kinney were all students.

What occurred

Hale, who had a detailed map of The Covenant School, shot through the lock on a side entrance door. The glass doors immediately shattered. Hale was carrying three weapons which include a rifle, pistol and handgun. 

As officers started to arrive as Hale was on the second floor of the school, Hale began firing shots at the police cars. 

Gun shots fired from Hale at a police car shown on Metro Nashville Police Department’s Twitter.

According to CBS News, Nashville Mayor John Cooper said the shooter was taken down within 14 minutes of the initial call. 

Covenant school students were transported to a reunification center that was established by officials during the aftermath of the shooting. 

CNN “Students from the Covenant School hold hands Monday after getting off a bus to meet their parents at a reunification site after a mass shooting at the school in Nashville. Mark Zaleski/USA Today Network/Reuters”

According to ABC News, Nashville Police Chief John Drake said he “was literally moved to tears to see” the young students as they were “ushered out of the building.”

ABC “A child weeps while on a bus leaving The Covenant School, following a mass shooting at the school in Nashville, Tenn., Mar. 27, 2023. Nicole Hester/USA Today Network via REUTERS”

According to CNN, this was the 19th American school shooting in 2023 in which at least one person was wounded. CNN added police said this shooting was targeted and closely planned out by Hale. CBS noted the victims were of random nature.

In the case of this school shooting, according to ABC News, no one who was shot at survived. 

University input

Paul (Lish) Harris, professor of criminal justice and department chair, said given the unreliable behavioral patterns of school shooters, it is nearly impossible to identify significant behavioral patterns prior to a tragic event. 

“In research I conducted with a group of students examining all school shootings between 2010-2018, we found the following: 32% of shooters mentioned their plans ahead of time, 28% had previous disciplinary problems, 18% had experienced bullying, and 12.5% had mental health disorders,” Harris said. “In sum, there are not many consistent ‘red-flags’ that our research uncovered.”

Harris said there is no detailed research that identifies the motivations of school shooters. 

Ron Bridge, Utah Tech University chief of police, said our university police are trained regularly on active gunman responses, which include sharing tactics on how to most effectively provide law enforcement services. 

Bridge said: “The first responsibility for law enforcement is to locate and stop the threat from continuing their actions. After the threat has been addressed, law enforcement will assist medical personnel in providing medical aid. Law enforcement will then move into the investigation phase until the situation is complete.”

Bridge said Utah Tech Police advise the “Run, Hide, Fight” model during an active gunman situation.

“If you can run, do so. If you are not able to run, find a place to hide and barricade your location in any way you can,” Bridge said. “If you cannot run or hide, prepare to fight for your life.”

Community mourning

The Tennessee Lookout said the investigation continues as the community mourns this tragic event. The school released a statement in the evening after the tragedy. It reads:

“Our community is heartbroken. We are grieving tremendous loss and are in shock coming out of the terror that shattered our school and church. We are focused on loving our students, our families, our faculty and staff, and beginning the process of healing.

Law enforcement is conducting its investigation, and while we understand there is a lot of interest and there will be a lot of discussion about and speculation surrounding what happened, we will continue to prioritize the well-being of our community.

We appreciate the outpouring of support we have received, and we are tremendously grateful to the first responders who acted quickly to protect our students, faculty and staff.

“We ask for privacy as our community grapples with this horrible tragedy — for our students, parents, faculty and staff.”

CBS News, “People gather at a makeshift memorial for victims outside The Covenant School in Nashville on March 27, 2023.

As school shootings around the country continue to occur, the loss of life is mourned by many.