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Nashville school shooting – live: Evelyn Dieckhaus called ‘shining light’ as first funeral takes place

Shooter Audrey Hale’s manifesto is still to be released by Nashville police

Namita Singh,Graeme Massie,Joe Sommerlad
Sunday 02 April 2023 21:07 BST
Bodycam footage shows Nashville police searching Christian school for gunman

The funeral of Evelyn Dieckhaus, one of three nine-year-old children killed at the Covenant School shooting, took place on Friday afternoon in Nashville.

Evelyn was remembered as a “shining light” in the funeral, which was closed to the media, at the Woodmont Christian Church in the Green Hills neighbourhood of the city.

Before the service, the church’s senior minister, the Rev Clay Stauffer, described the youngster as “radiant.”

Evelyn was killed while leading her classmates to safety in response to a fire alarm seemingly tripped by the attacker, her family believes.

Services for substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61, and Hallie Scruggs, nine, will be held on Saturday. Nine-year-old William Kinney's funeral will take place on Sunday, while services for Mike Hill, 61, the school’s custodian, will be held on Tuesday and the funeral for head of school Katherine Koonce, 60, will take place on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, police have released the chilling 911 calls they received from inside the Covenant School as the shooter – since identified by law enforcement as Audrey Hale, 28, a former student of the private Christian elementary school – broke into the building and opened fire.

A manifesto written by the suspect is soon expected to released by officers investigating the deadly attack.


Nashville shooting timeline: What we know so far

Monday’s shooting at a private Christian school in Nashville unfolded over approximately 15 minutes as a shooter opened fire inside, killing six people, before police arrived and fatally shot the suspect.

Three children and three adults were killed in the shooting at The Covenant School.

Here’s a look at what is known about the shooting and the Nashville police response:

Nashville shooting timeline: What we know so far

Police response times to school shootings have come under greater scrutiny in the 10 months since the deadly event in Uvalde, Texas

Maroosha Muzaffar30 March 2023 09:00

Audrey Hale’s manifesto ‘set to be released’ as motive speculation mounts

The manifesto left behind by Nashville school shooting suspect Audrey Hale is reportedly due to be released shortly after being scrutinised by a team of criminal profilers from the FBI, a Nashville City Council member has told The New York Post.

Robert Swope told the newspaper that the bureaus Behavioral Analysis Unit has been working “in tandem with” the Metro Nashville Police Department to carry out “a very in-depth analysis of certain aspects of the shooter’s life.”

“The manifesto is going to be released. It’s just a matter of when. There are some incredibly brilliant psychological minds and psychological analysts combing through her entire life.”

It is hoped the document will shed some definitive light on precisely why Hale carried out the attack, as speculation mounts.

Audrey Hale in a photo released by Nashville Police (MNPD)

No motivation for the attack has yet been established but on Wednesday it emerged that Hale had previously posted on Facebook about the death of a romantic partner, according to a former teacher, offering a possible clue.

Maria Colomy, who taught Hale at the Nossi College of Art & Design in Nashville, recalled a social media post from the suspect “openly grieving” an individual and said that Hale had announced the bereavement and asked to be addressed as Aiden and by masculine pronouns from then on.

Further reports quoting friends of Hale indicated the suspect had been left grief-stricken by the death of Sydney Shere Sims in a traffic accident in August 2022, a former classmate from the Isaiah T Creswell Middle School of the Arts and the Nashville School of the Arts whom Hale “definitely admired”.

One classmate, Samira Hardcastle, told The Post Hale had been “heartbroken” over the tragedy and characterised the suspect’s feelings as “maybe even infatuation” towards Sims, someone they “really, really looked up to”.

Sims’s family declined to comment further to The Independent.

Here’s my colleague Rachel Sharp’s report.

Nashville school shooter’s chilling manifesto to be released to public

The chilling manifesto left behind by the Nashville school shooting suspect is set to be released to the public once FBI profilers complete an analysis of its contents.

Joe Sommerlad30 March 2023 09:30

‘We need to fight harder, scream louder’: Nashville youth at school shooting vigil share their anger

The Independent’s Sheila Flynn attended a candlelit vigil for the victims of Monday’s shooting in Nashville last night.

This is her devastating report from the scene.

“We need to fight harder and scream louder, march harder,” local resident El Egan, 23, told her.

“We can’t give up on this fight. We have to fight like our lives depend on it, because they do – and the lives of our kids. And our kids are our lifeline. They’re our future. And we have to fight accordingly.”

‘We need to fight harder, scream louder:’ Nashville youth share their anger at vigil

First lady Jill Biden and singer Sheryl Crow stood before hundreds in Nashville as mourners held candles, prayed and shared their frustration at yet another deadly school shooting on American soil, writes Sheila Flynn

Joe Sommerlad30 March 2023 10:00

Kevin McCarthy refuses to commit to gun control legislation

Republican House speaker Kevin McCarthy offered a desperately weak response to Monday’s tragedy when confronted by journalists Washington, DC, on Wednesday, insisting lawmakers must see “all the facts” before any new gun legislation can be considered.

The facts – six people shot dead, three of them nine-year-old children, by a civilian bearing two military-grade assault rifles in the 130th such episode this calendar year before the end of March – surely speak for themselves.

“We want to see all the facts, we need to get the facts,” he insisted, before refusing to define precisely what he meant by “facts” and then turning on his heel and leaving.

Kevin McCarthy (AP)

It is clear that any fresh firearms laws tightening restrictions in response to Nashville will face an uphill battle in DC, with President Biden admitting earlier this week: “I can’t do anything except plead with the Congress to act reasonably.”

“I have done the full extent of my executive authority – to do on my own, anything about guns… The Congress has to act,” he continued.

“The majority of the American people think having assault weapons is bizarre, it’s a crazy idea. They’re against that. And so I think the Congress could be passing an assault weapon ban.”

Joe Sommerlad30 March 2023 10:30

Josh Hawley branded ‘fraud and coward’ over Nashville response

With emotions running high on Capitol Hill, Missouri Republican senator Josh Hawley has been labelled “a fraud and a coward” by a Democratic rival after calling for the shooting to be investigated as a hate crime against Christians, despite having been the only member of the Senate to vote against a bill to crack down on hate crimes against Asian Americans two years ago.

In making that protest, Hawley said the bill in question threatened to “turn the federal government into the speech police [and] give government sweeping authority to decide what counts as offensive speech and then monitor it”.

No motive has yet been revealed to explain Audrey Hale’s actions but that did not stop Hawley grandstanding in the Senate and announcing he had written to FBI director Christopher Wray and homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to demand an investigation.

“It is commonplace to call such horror senseless violence. But properly speaking, that is false. Police report the attack here was targeted… against Christians,” Hawley told his fellow senators on Wednesday.

“I urge you to immediately open an investigation into this shooting as a federal hate crime. The full resources of the federal government must be brought to bear… Hate that leads to violence must be condemned and hate crimes must be prosecuted.”

Josh Hawley (Getty)

Repulsed by his hypocrisy, Democrat Lucas Kunce, who has announced his intention to run for senate against Hawley in 2024, said: “One out of 100 senators voted against the anti-hate crime bill in 2021. His name is Josh Hawley. He’s a fraud and a coward. Some days it’s more obvious than others.”

On the prospect of opening a federal hate crimes probe into the Nashville attack, US attorney general Merrick Garland said: “As of now, motive hasn’t been identified. We are certainly working full time with [federal agencies and law enforcement] to determine what the motive is and of course motive is what determines whether it’s a hate crime or not.”

This post was amended on April 4 2023. It previously said that Lucas Kunce also represented Missouri, but while he has announced his intention to run for senate, he is not a senator.

Joe Sommerlad30 March 2023 11:00

Ex-police officer who conducted active shooter drills at Covenant School praises teachers

Brink Fidler, an ex-police officer who has conducted active shooting drills at The Covenant School in the past and knew some of the victims of the shooting, has spoken to Erin Burnett on CNN’s Out Front and praised staff for their “literally flawless” response to the attack.

Fidler said he had known custodian Mike Hill and particularly headmistress Katherine Koonce, who he said “understood the severity” of the risk posed by mass shootings and had actively sought out his help in training and preparing her staff for such an eventuality.

“This story… is about these teachers,” he said. “People are talking about the training we did with them and, yes, training is important, but I wasn’t here on Monday. They were here, right?

“Their ability to execute, literally flawlessly, under that amount of stress while someone is trying to murder them and their children… that is what made the difference here… These teachers are the reason those kids went home to their families.”

Joe Sommerlad30 March 2023 11:30

Alec Baldwin told to ‘read the room’ after posting in support of gun control

Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin – who was charged with involuntary manslaughter after cinematographer Halyna Hutchins died of a gunshot wound on the set of his Western Rust in 2021, to which he has pleaded not guilty – has attracted scorn after posting a message in support of gun control on Instagram.

Baldwin, reposted (without comment) a message from musician Peter Frampton that read: “26 years ago, a gunman entered Dunblane Primary School in Scotland, killing 16 kids and a teacher. The UK govt responded by enacting tight gun control legislation. In the 9400+ days since, there have been a total of 0 school shootings in the UK.”

The post drew all manner of nasty responses alluding to the accusation against Baldwin, of which the following is typical: “Read the room Alec. You are unbelievable.”

Joe Sommerlad30 March 2023 12:00

White House says Republicans ‘lack courage’ for meaningful gun reform

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre slammed Republicans’ lack of interest in enacting stronger gun laws on Wednesday in the wake of the recent mass shooting in Tennessee, calling their attitude “unacceptable”.

The White House added that the GOP lacks the fortitude to address the recurring horror of seeing children gunned down in their places of learning.

Ms Jean-Pierre was speaking to reporters at the daily White House press briefing when she was asked about Republican arguments that it’s impractical to enact the renewed assault weapons ban favoured by President Biden because 25m military-style semi-automatic weapons are currently in Americans’ homes.

Pressed on how the president would respond to that argument, she replied: “That’s unacceptable”.

White House says Republicans ‘lack courage’ for meaningful gun reform

White House press secretary says the lack of a response from the GOP is ‘unacceptable’

Joe Sommerlad30 March 2023 12:30

Tennessee governor reveals Nashville shooting victim was friend and was due to have dinner with him that night

Rachel Sharp has more on Republican Bill Lee’s video last night in which he revealed that he and his wife were friends with shooting victims Katherine Koonce and Cynthia Peak and that the latter was due to have dinner with them on the night she was killed.

Nashville shooting victim was family friend of Tennessee governor

The Republican governor has loosened gun laws in the state since taking office

Joe Sommerlad30 March 2023 13:00

Arizona governor’s press secretary resigns after ‘transphobe’ gun meme in wake of Nashville shooting

The press secretary for Arizona governor Katie Hobbs has resigned after facing strong criticism for posting a meme suggesting violent measures against transphobes in the wake of the Nashville school shooting.

Police have said that the suspect in the shooting, Audrey Hale, 28, was a trans man, prompting dangerous anti-trans rhetoric from Republican lawmakers and far-right figures, as reported by The Independent.

Arizona governor’s press secretary resigns after ‘transphobe’ gun meme

Right-wing Arizona caucus leader says staffer was ‘threatening to shoot people Democrats disagree with less than 12 hours after Nashville shooting’

Joe Sommerlad30 March 2023 13:30

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