Nashville police officers describe trauma of responding to school shooting that left six dead

The officers shot and killed the shooter just 14 minutes after receiving the initial 911 call

Abe Asher
Thursday 06 April 2023 00:54 BST
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Three Nashville police officers spoke out at a press conference on Tuesday about their experiences responding to the mass shooting that left six people, including three children, dead inside a local school.

Detective Sgt Jeff Mathes, Detective Michael Collazo and officer Rex Engelbert all spoke at the press conference, which began with the officers extending their condolences to the families of the victims and all those affected by the shooting.

Six people were killed in the 27 March attack, including three nine-year-old students.

The children killed were Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney and Hallie Scruggs. The school’s custodian Mike Hill, 61, a substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61, and Katherine Koonce, 60, the school’s headmaster, were also killed.

“Once we got to the stairs, we got to a second floor hallway,” Sgt Mathes said. “Once in that hallway, the smell of gunpowder was in the air.”

The Nashville police detectives who responded to the shooting credited their training for their ability to respond effectively. The officers ended up shooting and killing 28-year-old Audrey Hale, the alleged shooter, roughly 14 minutes after they recieved the first 911 call about the situation.

Police have identified the suspected shooter by their name at birth; Hale reportedly was a transgender man who used he/him pronouns, though law enforcement officials initially described the suspect as a woman in the aftermath of the shooting. Police did not provide another name but on the suspect’s social media accounts they refer to themselves as Aiden.

The officers reflected on the trauma of responding to the shooting, including what their own families are dealing with. Sgt Mathes described the three officers having to step over a victim in the school building.

“I, to this day, don’t know how I did that morally, but training is what kicked in,” Sgt Mathes said.

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The relatively fast response to the shooting stood in stark contrast to the delayed response to a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas last year that led to the dismissal of the school district’s police chief and a state investigation into what went wrong.

Nashville has been roiled by protests in the aftermath of the shooting, including a major demonstration at the state capitol that saw thousands call on the Republican-controlled state government to enact gun control legislation in response to the shootings.

Thus far, the Republican majority has shown no willingness to revisit the state’s relatively lax gun laws. Republicans in the state house, however, are pushing to expel three Democratic members who participated in the gun control protest from the floor of the chamber — a move that critics have labelled authoritarian.

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