Nashville police said Monday that “resentment” may have played a role in a 28-year-old man’s brutal attack on the private Christian school they once attended.
The shooter, Audrey Hale, a Nashville resident, had no criminal record before opening fire at The Covenant School, killing three children and three adults, authorities said.
“There is some belief that there is some resentment going into that school,” Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake told NBC News’ Lester Holt.
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Police said Hale had carefully planned the attack with detailed maps and surveillance.
While the shooter may have targeted The Covenant School, Drake stopped short of saying Hale was targeting specific individuals. There are also indications that Hale was planning to target other locations, Drake told NBC News.
Catherine Koons, 60, Covenant’s head of school, was among those killed.
“She targeted random students at school … whoever she came in contact with, she opened fire,” Drake said.
Authorities said Hale opened a locked door to enter the school.
The former student allegedly left behind writings that were examined by local and federal investigators.
“We have some writing on this date, the actual incident,” Drake told reporters hours after the shooting. “We have a map of how this is going to play out.”
Hale said he was transgender.
Authorities “feel that he identifies as trans, but we’re still in the preliminary investigation of that, if that actually played a role in this incident,” Drake said.
Bill Campbell, the school’s former headmaster, said Hale was in third grade in 2005 and fourth grade in 2006, citing yearbooks he kept.
“What happened to the former student and what she did to the teachers and students is an absolute tragedy,” Campbell said.
Campbell said Hale was not listed as a student in fifth or sixth grade, so Hale transferred after fourth grade.
“I look back at my yearbook and I remember her as a former student,” said the former headmaster. “She’s just one of our young ladies. … She’s a typical co-editor. A regular student.”
Campbell couldn’t recall any issues that might have raised red flags for Hale at the time.
“I think about this student and our relationship at the time she was there, there was nothing extraordinary and unusual,” the former school administrator said. “He was loved and admired like all our students.”
Hale came to school Monday with two AR-style weapons and a handgun, Drake said.
Two of those three weapons were legally obtained in the Nashville area, he said.
Hale was confronted by five officers, two of whom opened fire, killing the assailant, authorities said.
A car near the scene helped police determine who the shooter was, and investigators are canvassing Hale’s home, he said.
Police tactical units were seen using a grenade-like device to enter a residence listed as Hale’s home.
“It’s a big family, it’s a tragedy,” the neighbor said.
Several phone numbers listed for Hale’s mother and brother went unanswered Monday afternoon.
Drake praised his officers for quickly taking on the shooter.
“It could have been a lot worse,” he said.
Authorities said Hale’s writings also indicate that Covenant School was not the killer’s only target.
“It means there’s going to be a lot of shootings, and the school is one of them,” Drake told NBC News.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper said the officers’ quick work prevented more deaths.
“Let’s appreciate our first responders, 14 minutes, 14 minutes, I’m under fire, running under fire,” Cooper told reporters.