Nashville school shooting updates: Kevin McCarthy refuses community’s call for gun control regulation, 911 calls released

NASHVILLE, TEN — Angry parents and students rallied at the Tennessee State Capitol Thursday to lobby for gun reform after a mass shooting at a Christian private school in Nashville on Monday.

Former “Bachelorette” star Ali Fedotowsky, a Nashville resident and mother of two, was among the protesters and wrote on Instagram: “This morning was extremely emotional and powerful. Nashville wants change!!!!”

“I will scream and scream and cry until I have nothing left!” She wrote. “I want my children to live and I want your children to live.”

And on Wednesday night, hundreds of people gathered for a candlelight vigil to mourn and honor the three children and three staff members killed at Covenant School.

A cross stands above the crowd during a vigil for the victims of the Covenant School shooting Wednesday, March 29, 2023, in Nashville, Tennessee.

(AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Local, state and federal officials, as well as dignitaries, religious leaders and community leaders attended the somber ceremony in One Square Park in downtown the Tennessee capital. First Lady Jill Biden and singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow were among those in attendance, although Biden did not address the crowd.

Various speakers took turns reading the names of the victims and expressing their condolences to the bereaved families.

People pay their respects at an entrance to the Covenant School, which has become a memorial to the victims, Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in Nashville, Tennessee.

People pay their respects at an entrance to the Covenant School, which has become a memorial to the victims, Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in Nashville, Tennessee.

AP Photo/John Amis

“Just two days ago was our city’s worst day,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper told the crowd. “I wish so much we weren’t here, but we have to be here.”

After the gunman opened fire on the school Monday morning, responding officers shot the suspect dead about 14 minutes after receiving the first 911 call, according to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.

In a dramatic 911 call, a woman told the dispatcher that she was hiding in an art room closet. She said she heard the shots and asked emergency services to hurry. At one point she whispered to someone else in the closet to keep quiet.

Police have identified the children killed as 9-year-old students Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney and Hallie Scruggs. The adult victims have been identified as 61-year-old caretaker Mike Hill, 60-year-old principal Katherine Koonce and 61-year-old substitute teacher Cynthia Peak.


Children and a woman leave the reunion center at Woodmont Baptist Church after a school shooting Monday, March 27, 2023, in Nashville, Tennessee.

(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

During Wednesday’s vigil, a former local school administrator, Tricia Drake, said she can’t stop thinking about her last conversation with Koonce, who she said advised her on how best to prepare for an active shooter scenario could.

“The last time I spoke to her in August was about who she used for her active marksman training because I know she would have researched someone,” Drake said in a tearful interview with ABC News. “We ended up doing the same active rifleman training at the school where I was the principal. I can’t believe this was the last time I spoke to her.”

Drake said she knew Koonce left her mark when she saw footage police released from two of the responding officers’ body-worn cameras. One of the videos shows a Covenant School staff member meeting Officer Rex Engelbert at the school’s main entrance and telling him, “The kids are all locked up, but we have two kids that we don’t know where are.” She will then seen using a key to unlock the door for officers to enter.

“The students were in their classrooms, locked in, the pro out to run the Metro cop. She had a key to what her headcount was, she knew exactly where the students would be, she was prepared,” Drake told ABC News. “I’m sure they did those drills and that’s because of Katherine and the foresight she had to make sure her staff were prepared.”

MORE: Body camera video released by police that shot at Nashville school shooter; 3 children, 3 adults dead

Drake, who declined to give the name of the Nashville school she used to work for, said she went through the same active rifleman training as Koonce and that the key was adopting a “warrior mentality” and embracing injury rather than death accept. Part of the training, she said, is throwing students out of windows and running as far away as possible. Drake said she believes Koonce’s preparations saved lives on Monday.

Drake also recalled the moment she realized something could be seriously wrong as news of the Covenant School shooting began to spread.

“I texted my sister and friends to say, ‘This is Katherine’s school. I know she will come out. She’ll come out anytime now and tell everyone everything is under control, everything is fine,” said Drake. “And I was waiting for Katherine to come out like everyone else and I found it so strange that she wasn’t visible. She was so professional, so prepared, so dedicated to her faculty and her sweet kids, and it’s just such a loss. It is unthinkable that this happened in our small town.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy broke his silence on the shooting at his news conference Thursday, arguing that passing legislation alone is not the answer.

“I don’t think legislation would solve this. I think one nation working together solves a problem that is much bigger than ours,” he said.

McCarthy said the country needs to have a “serious conversation” about mental illness.

“We have to deal with mental illness. We need to see what makes people think you’re going to go to innocent children, a Christian school, to shoot in them,” he said.

The suspect – identified as Audrey Hale, 28, of Nashville – was a former Covenant School student, according to police. Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake told reporters Tuesday it seemed likely the school was attacked, but “students were attacked indiscriminately.”

The police chief had told reporters Monday that Hale had been identified as female and transgender, but didn’t immediately provide further details. A police spokesman later told ABC News that the suspect was pronounced female at birth, but pointed to a social media account linked to Hale that included the use of the pronouns he/him.

According to police, the suspect was armed with two assault rifles, a pistol and “significant ammunition” at the time of the attack. Investigators have since searched Hale’s Nashville home, where they seized “a sawed-off shotgun, a second shotgun and other evidence,” police said in a news release Monday.

The police chief said the suspect legally purchased seven guns from five different local stores and hid some of those guns at home. Hale was receiving medical attention for an emotional disorder, the police chief said, and Hale’s parents “were under the impression that she was selling the one gun” they believed Hale owned.

Hale also had a detailed map of the school, as well as “writings and a book that we consider a manifesto,” the police chief told ABC News in an interview with Good Morning America on Tuesday.

“We haven’t been able to determine a motive yet,” he added. “The investigation is still very much ongoing.”

Video from the school’s security cameras shows the suspect arriving in a vehicle and parked in the parking lot at 9:54 am ET. Minutes later, the suspect is seen shooting through a door on the side of the school and entering the building. According to police, Hale allegedly walked from the first to the second floor and fired multiple shots.

Police received a 911 call at 10:13 a.m. ET about an active shooter at the school. As officers responded to the scene, the suspect fired at police cars from a second-story window, police said.

Nashville mom witnesses students run to safety during school shooting; jumps into action help

Video from two body-worn cameras of the responding officers shows them entering the school, following the sound of gunfire to the second floor and finding the suspect in a lobby area near a window. After an officer shouts “reload,” officers Rex Engelbert, a four-year veteran, and Michael Collazo, a nine-year veteran, both shoot the suspect.

The Covenant School, a private Christian school for children from preschool through sixth grade, has about 209 students and 40 to 50 staff. According to police, it does not have a school resource officer.

In a statement released Monday night, the Covenant School said its community was “heartbroken.”

“We mourn a tremendous loss and are shocked by the terror that has destroyed our church and school,” the school said. “We are focused on loving our students, our families, our faculty and our staff and beginning the healing process.”

ABC News’ Libby Cathey, Vera Drymon, Alex Faul, Matt Foster, Ben Gittleson, James Hill, Doug Lantz, Molly Nagle, Olivia Osteen, Lauren Peller, Darren Reynolds and John Santucci contributed to this report. Nashville school shooting updates: Kevin McCarthy refuses community’s call for gun control regulation, 911 calls released

Russell Falcon

Russell Falcon is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Russell Falcon joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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