(NewsNation) — Seven people including three children are dead after an active shooter sprayed bullets at a Nashville private Christian elementary school Monday.
Nashville police identified the victims as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, all between age 9, Cynthia Peak, age 61, Katherine Koonce, age 60, and Mike Hill, age 61.
“We are heartbroken. She was such a gift. Through tears, we trust that she is in the arms of Jesus who will raise her to life once again,” Chad Scruggs, Hallie’s father, told NewsNation affiliate WKRN reporter Allie Lynch.
The first reports of an active shooter at The Covenant School in Nashville came in at 10:13 a.m. Monday, according to Metropolitan Nashville Police Department spokesperson Don Aaron.
“I was literally moved to tears to see this and the kids as they were being ushered out of the building,” Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake said.
Police identified the shooter as 28-year-old Audrey Hale, who they said identified as transgender. Hale entered the building through a side entrance and was actively shooting as they went up to the second level, Aaron said. The shooter was armed with two “assault-type rifles” and a pistol.
Drake said at an afternoon news conference that Hale had maps of the school and shot out the glass of a door to gain access to the building. A manifesto was also recovered, and Drake said it was a targeted attack.
“We have a manifesto, we have some writings that we’re going over that pertain to this date, the actual incident,” he said. “We have a map drawn out of how this was all going to take place.”
Nashville police released surveillance footage of the shooting Monday night, which shows Hale shooting out the glass on the doors and then walking the hallways. The shooter is clad in what appears to be a black, Kevlar-type vest and camouflage pants.
Police searched Hale’s residence, as well as the car they say Hale drove to the school. “Additional material written by Hale” was found inside the car, police said.
Hale was a Nashville resident and a former student at the school.
There was no school resource officer on-site and a five-officer unit from Metropolitan Nashville Police Department responded to the scene. The officers followed the sounds of gunshots to the second level, Aaron said. When they found the shooter in a “lobby” area of the school’s second level, two officers “engaged” and the suspect was shot and killed.
Nashville Fire Department medics responded and transported three children and two adults to area hospitals after assessing “viable signs of life.” Three children and three adults were killed in the shooting. One officer’s hand was wounded by cut glass during the response.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper commended first responders for their quick action.
“Let us praise our first responders — 14 minutes, I believe under fire, running to gunfire,” Cooper said at an afternoon news conference.
Photos released by the police department show shattered windows on the second floor of the building, from which police say Hale fired at them. Another photo shows a police squad car with a bullet hole in the windshield.
On a typical day, there would be 209 children and 42 staff members at the school, Aaron said. Kendra Loney, with the Nashville Fire Department, said at least 108 children and staff members were taken to a reunification point and a hotline is being set up for parents to call.
The Covenant School is a private Christian school catering to students from pre-school through sixth grade.
At a scheduled event, President Joe Biden expressed his sympathies for the families of those killed and urged Congress to act to pass his assault weapons ban.
“We have to do more to combat gun violence, it’s ripping the nation apart,” Biden said.
Cooper echoed those sentiments.
“The leading cause of kids’ death now is guns and gunfire, and that is unacceptable,” Cooper said. “Guns stole precious lives from us today in Nashville.”
NewsNation writer Devan Markham contributed to this report.