A woman holding two rifles "assault style" and a gun killed three 9-year-old students and three adults at a private Christian school in Nashville on Monday in the latest in a series of mass shootings in a country increasingly nervous about bloodshed. In schools.
The suspect, who was killed by police, is believed to be a former student at The Covenant School in Nashville, where the shooting took place.
The victims were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney, all 9 years old, and the adults Cynthia Peak, 61; Katherine Konce, 60; and Mike Hill, 61.
The website for The Covenant School, a Presbyterian school founded in 2001, lists Katherine Koonce as the school’s principal. Her LinkedIn profile says that she has run the school since July 2016.
The attack on The Covenant School, which has about 200 students from kindergarten through sixth grade, as well as about 50 staff members, comes as communities across the country are reeling from a wave of school violence, including the massacre in a primary school in Uvalde. , Texas, last year; a first grader who shot his teacher in Virginia; and a shooting last week in Denver that injured two administrators.
“I was literally moved to tears to see this and the children being led out of the building,” Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake said at an evening news conference.
The identity and motive of the suspect have not been released.
The Covenant School was founded as a ministry of the Covenant Presbyterian Church. The affluent Green Hills neighborhood, just south of downtown Nashville, where the Covenant School is located, is home to the famed Bluebird Café, a beloved hangout for musicians and songwriters.
President Joe Biden, speaking at an unrelated White House event on Monday, called the shooting “the family’s worst nightmare” and again implored Congress to pass a ban on certain semi-automatic weapons.
“He is tearing at the soul of this nation, tearing at the very soul of this nation,” Biden said.
The suspect’s identity as a woman shocked mass shooting experts. Female shooters make up only 5% to 8% of all mass shooters, said Adam Lankford, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Alabama who has closely studied the psychology and behavior of mass shooters.
There have been seven mass murders in US schools since 2006, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today in association with Northeastern University. In all of them, the shooters were men who killed four or more people in a 24-hour period at the K-12 school.
Researchers believe there are three main explanations for why men commit more shootings than women, according to Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University who has studied mass shootings for more than a decade.
Metzl listed those explanations as: men have more testosterone, are socialized to engage in violence, and own more guns than women.
“From historic school shootings, very often we think that people have some historical connection or emotional connection to the school,” he said, calling the Nashville shooting “an untold story.”
Monday’s tragedy unfolded for approximately 14 minutes. Police received the initial call about an active shooter at 10:13 a.m.
Officers began clearing the first floor of the school when they heard gunshots coming from the second level, police spokesman Don Aaron said during a news conference.
Two officers from a five-member team opened fire in response, fatally shooting the suspect at 10:27 a.m., Aaron said. One officer had a hand injury from a cut glass.
Aaron said there were no police officers present or assigned to the school at the time of the shooting because it is a church-run school.
Other students walked to safety on Monday, holding hands as they left their school surrounded by police cars for a nearby church to meet their parents.
Rachel Dibble, who was at the church as the families found their children, described the scene as everyone being “completely shocked”.
“People were shaking involuntarily,” said Dibble, whose children attend a different private school in Nashville. “The kids…started the morning in their cute uniforms, they probably had some Froot Loops and now their lives have completely changed today.”
Dr Shamendar Talwar, a social psychologist from the UK who is working on an unrelated mental health project in Nashville, rushed to the church as soon as he heard the news of the shooting to offer help. He said he was one of several chaplains, psychologists, life coaches and clergy supporting families.
“All you can show is that the human spirit that we are basically all here together … and hold his hand more than anything else,” he said.
Jozen Reodica heard blaring police sirens and fire trucks from outside her nearby office building. When her building was closed, she took her phone out and recorded the chaos.
“I thought I would see this on TV,” he said. “And right now, it’s real.”
Top legislative leaders announced Monday that the GOP-dominated House of Representatives would meet briefly later in the evening and delay the adoption of any legislation.
“On a tragic morning, Nashville joined the feared and long list of communities that experienced a school shooting,” Mayor John Cooper wrote on Twitter.
Nashville has seen its share of mass violence in recent years, including a Christmas Day 2020 attack where an RV was intentionally detonated in the heart of historic downtown Music City, killing the attacker, injuring three others and forcing more than 60 businesses.