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USA: 3 children & 3 staff killed in shooting by ex-student in Tennessee

North AmericaUSA: 3 children & 3 staff killed in shooting by ex-student in Tennessee

Six people – three children and three staff – have been killed in a shooting by an ex-student at a school in the US city of Nashville, Tennessee.

The private Christian school has about 200 students.  Three of the victims were pupils aged nine or under at Covenant School. Police named them Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney.  The adult victims were named Cynthia Peak, 61, Katherine Koonce, 60, and Mike Hill, 61.

Police said the suspect was 28-year-old Audrey Hale, who identified as transgender.  Hale was armed with three guns, including a semi-automatic rifle, and was shot dead by police.

Police received the first call about the incident at 10:13 local time (15:13 GMT) on Monday.  The suspect drove to the school in a Honda Fit and got in by firing through one of the school doors, which were all locked.

Video later released by Nashville police shows Hale 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 to be a protective vest and carrying an assault-style rifle in one hand, with a second, similar weapon also visible hanging from the left hip.

The shooter fired at police from the second floor when they arrived.  he shooter fired at police from the second floor when they arrived.  Hale fired shots on the ground floor before moving to the building’s second floor.

As police cars arrived, Hale fired on them from the second floor, 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.

Police spoke with the attacker’s father during a search of a nearby home that was listed as the shooter’s address.  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.  After the shooting, parents gathered at a nearby church to be reunited with their children. As buses of children arrived, they hung their heads and hands out of the windows to wave to their parents, according to the Tennessean newspaper.

There is a growing memorial outside the school adorned with toys and flowers.
The Presbyterian-affiliated Covenant School is located in the upmarket Green Hills neighbourhood, just south of downtown Nashville.

The mother of one pupil said her son had been left traumatised by the shooting.  “I think he’s doing better now that he knows that the shooter is dead,” Shaundelle Brooks told BBC News.  She also said, “These are conversations we shouldn’t be having, we’re failing our children.”

The killer shot through a locked side door to break inside:
By nightfall on Monday, the entrance to Covenant looked like that of any other church that has a school, except for the growing memorial and police presence.

There was a sign outside promoting registration for a summer programme and the Easter Sunday service schedule.

In a statement, Nashville Mayor John Cooper said the city had “joined the dreaded, long list of communities to experience a school shooting”.

President Joe Biden called the shooting a “family’s worst nightmare”.

“We have to do more to stop gun violence,” he said, once again calling on Congress to pass gun control laws. “It is ripping our communities apart, and ripping at the very soul of this nation.”

The attack was America’s 129th mass shooting of 2023, according to Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit that tracks gun violence data.

According to data compiled by Education Week, there have been 12 school shootings that have resulted in deaths or injuries in the US this year up until the end of last week.

Biden said, “the shooter in this situation reportedly had two assault weapons and a pistol two AK-47. So I call on Congress, again, to pass my assault weapons ban. It’s about time that we begin to make some more progress.”

Is it about time that the American government not only restricts guns but also puts heavy security in schools, malls and other public places, just as it does in airports.  More Americans have been killed by guns violence since 1968 than in all U.S. wars combined.  Since 1968, more than 1.5 million Americans have died in gun-related incidents, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In retrospect, around 1.2 million service members have been killed in every war in U.S. history, referring to estimates from the Department of Veterans Affairs and iCasualties.org, a website that maintains an ongoing database of casualties from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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