The parents of Nashville school shooter Audrey Hale said the 28-year-old hid multiple firearms from them because Hale was being treated for an emotional disorder and they didn’t want their child to own guns, police said Tuesday.
Hale, who was shot dead by police at The Covenant School after committing the mass shooting Monday, had legally purchased seven guns from various local stores. Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake said Hale used three of the guns to kill six people indiscriminately at the school, including three 9-year-old students.
Hale’s parents told investigators they knew about one of the guns but they believed that Hale had sold it, Chief Drake said.
“She was under care, doctor’s care, for an emotional disorder,” he said. “Her parents felt she should not own weapons … they were under the impression that when she sold the one weapon that she did not own any more.”
“As it turned out,” the chief said, Hale had “been hiding several weapons within the house.”
Hale, a transgender person who was a biological female, was a former student at the school. The shooter left a manifesto and a detailed map of the school in the attack, and police said Hale decided against attacking another school because it had “too much security.”
SEE ALSO: Police chief: Nashville shooter decided against attacking another school due to ‘too much security’
Chief Drake said his department would’ve tried to take away Hale’s guns away if officers had caught wind of Hale’s intentions, but, “as it stands, we had absolutely no idea who this person was.”
Police released dramatic body camera and surveillance footage Tuesday of their response to the school shooting. It showed glass doors being shot out and the shooter ducking through one of them to gain entry to the school.
The video from Officer Rex Engelbert’s bodycam also shows a woman greeting police outside as they arrived at the school. “The kids are all locked down, but we have two kids that we don’t know where they are,” she told police.
Three officers are shown searching rooms one by one, holding rifles as alarms are heard going off. One officer says, “It sounds like it’s upstairs.”
Officers climb stairs to the second floor and enter a lobby area. “Move in,” an officer yells. Then a barrage of gunfire is heard.
“Get your hands away from the gun,” an officer yells twice. Then the shooter is shown motionless on the floor.
SEE ALSO: Attorney General Garland: Too early to call Nashville shooting a hate crime
Chief Drake said the slain students – 9-year-olds Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney – were “randomly targeted” and that a motive remains unclear. He said the shooting victims weren’t all in one classroom, but were spread out throughout the school – with the body of Head of School Katherine Koonce, 60, found in an upstairs hallway by herself. The chief said it was possible she was running toward the gunfire when she was hit.
“There was a confrontation, I’m sure,” Chief Drake said. “You can tell [by] the way she was laying in the hallway.”
Police response times to school shootings have come under greater scrutiny after the elementary school massacre in Uvalde, Texas, in which 70 minutes passed before law enforcement stormed the classroom. In Nashville, police have said 14 minutes passed from the initial call about a shooter in the school to when the suspect was killed, but they have not said how long it took them to arrive.
Investigators’ revelation that Hale decided against attacking another school that had security officers renewed the debate about how best to prevent school shootings.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican, pushed back on Democratic leaders and their allies who again called for an assault weapons ban. He said schools need better security.
“It looks like the shooter originally went to another school that had much stronger security and ultimately went to this [other] school. Let’s get the facts,” Mr. Scalise said. “And let’s work to see if there’s something that we can do to help secure schools. We’ve talked about things that we can do and it just seems like on the other side, all they want to do is take guns away from law-abiding citizens. … So why don’t we, number one, keep those families in our prayers and see if there were things that were missed along the way.”
Mr. Scalise told reporters the country should focus on mental health issues that appear to be a driving force in many mass shootings. He himself was a shooting victim in 2017 when a supporter of Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, fired on the GOP congressional baseball team at a Virginia practice field.
President Biden reiterated his call Tuesday for Congress to approve a ban on assault weapons. The president said he had spoken to Chief Drake, Nashville Mayor John Cooper and Tennessee’s Republican U.S. senators, Bill Hagerty and Marsha Blackburn.
“The Congress has to act. The majority of the American people think having assault weapons is bizarre; it’s a crazy idea,” Mr. Biden told reporters. “I can’t do anything except plead with the Congress to act reasonably.”
Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, called for a federal hate crime investigation into the shooting, in a letter sent Tuesday to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
“It is commonplace to call such horrors ‘senseless violence.’ But properly speaking, that is false,” Mr. Hawley’s letter stated. “Police report that the attack here is ‘targeted’ — targeted, that is, against Christians.”
But Attorney General Merrick Garland said Tuesday that it’s too early for the Justice Department to say whether the horrific shooting should be considered a hate crime. Mr. Garland said the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are looking at the incident in cooperation with local authorities.
“We are certainly working full-time with them to try to determine what the motive is, and motive determines whether it’s a hate crime,” the attorney general said in testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
His answers came in response to Sen. John Kennedy, Louisiana Republican, who wanted to know if the Justice Department would open a hate crimes investigation even though the shooting suspect is dead.
Chief Drake said a possible motive for the shooting may have been that Hale harbored “resentment” about having to attend the Christian school years ago.
The Trans Resistance Network, a radical activist group, said hate toward transgender people “has consequences.” While saying they don’t know Hale’s thoughts, the group said life for transgender people is made more difficult by “a virtual avalanche of anti-trans legislation” and statements of disapproval by public officials
“Many transgender people deal with anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide, and PTSD from the near constant drumbeat of anti-trans hate, lack of acceptance from family members and certain religious institutions, denial of our existence, and calls for de-transition and forced conversion,” the group said.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington Democrat and chairwoman of the House Progressive Caucus, said using the tragedy to attack transgender people “is really misguided and cruel.”
“The reality is that this is not about the shooter, just like in the many cases, the 99% of cases where it has been a white man,” Ms. Jayapal said. “We don’t know what’s happening with the shooter. I think the thing we should focus on is guns. The Republicans are trying to distract us from the fact that this is yet another issue where they have been on the wrong side of justice and they have not addressed gun reform in the way that we should with a ban on assault rifles.”
— Dave Boyer and Stephen Dinan contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire-service reports.
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