Nashville school shooting timeline: How the Tennessee massacre unfolded

Former student Audrey Hale, 28, shot dead six people before being killed by police

Joe Sommerlad
Friday 31 March 2023 12:26 BST
Police release CCTV footage of Nashville school shooter

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Louise Thomas

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America suffered its latest outbreak of deadly gun violence on Monday morning when a shooter broke into The Covenant School in the Green Hills suburb of Nashville, Tennessee, and shot dead six people, including three children aged nine.

Police arrived quickly at the scene and shot dead the suspect, later named as Audrey Hale, 28, a former student at the private Christian elementary school.

Police 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 three child victims were identified as students Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney.

Three adults – head teacher Katherine Koonce, 60, and staff members Cynthia Peak and Mike Hill, both 61 – were also killed by the shooter, who was armed with two “military-style” assault rifles and a handgun.

Metro Nashville police chief John Drake has since given an update on the investigation into Hale’s possible motives, revealing that a further stash of firearms has been found at the suspect’s family home along with a manifesto and a map outlining other possible targets, including the city mall.

Chief Drake also said Hale had been under a doctor’s care for an “emotional disorder” and that “resentment” against the institution was being explored as a possible motivating factor.

The tragedy marks the 376th mass shooting at a US school since the notorious Columbine massacre of 1999, according to a Washington Post database, and follows a spate of recent incidents at American schools, including the killings in Uvalde, Texas, last May, a first-grade student shooting his teacher in Virginia and an attack in Denver, Colorado just last week in which two school administrators were wounded.

As new details about the killer’s life and possible motive come to light, here’s what we know so far about the timeline of the mass shooting.


Nashville’s NewsChannel5 has reported that Hale sent a series of chilling Instagram messages to a former middle school basketball teammate, Averianna Patton, just prior to the shooting spree to say a “last goodbye”.

Hale wrote to Patton explaining that a recent post on the platform had been “basically a suicide note”, adding: “I’m planning to die today. THIS IS NOT A JOKE!!!! You’ll probably hear about me on the news after I die.”

When Patton responded, urging Hale to reconsider and arguing “you have so much more life to live”, Hale expressed resolve and said: “I wanted to tell you first because you are the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen and known all my life.”

More ominously, Hale added: “One day this will make more sense. I’ve left behind more than enough evidence behind. But something bad is about to happen.”


Alarmed by the messages, Patton subsequently told media that she contacted the Suicide Prevention Help Line to try to get help.

“Audrey has shared with others that she had been suicidal in the past and I knew to take this serious,” she said.


As revealed in security footage later released by the Metro Nashville Police Department, Hale is seen driving to the school in a silver Honda Fit.

Hale parks in the car park and enters the school by a side door before shooting through a pair of glass double doors to gain entrance to a central hallway.

Once inside, Hale is seen roaming the corridors in search of victims for around 17 minutes, opening fire on staff and students as a siren rings out. Hale wears combat trousers, a vest and a red baseball cap turned backwards.


Police receive the first 911 call alerting officers to an active shooter at the school.


Patton calls the Nashville Davidson County Sheriff’s Office to report the Instagram messages but is told to contact the city’s non-emergency number instead.

She does and she is kept on hold for seven minutes before she can speak to someone, she tells NewsChannel5.

She is told an officer will be sent to her house but this does not happen until 3.29pm that afternoon.


After killing six people inside The Covenant School, the suspect is shot dead by a team of five attending police officers on the school’s second floor, which is later seen in bodycam footage captured by attending officers Rex Engelbert and Michael Collazo.

Hale had allegedly opened fire on an arriving police cruiser from an upper window, piercing its windshield.

As shown in the video, the officers clear the first floor and search the classrooms and hallways for the shooter, only to hear shooting on the second floor. Moving upstairs, they encounter Hale and fatally shoot the gunman dead.


The school first reports the incident on social media and the incident makes headlines around the world.


At the White House, President Joe Biden calls the attack “heartbreaking, a family’s worst nightmare”.

He continues: “We have to do more to stop gun violence. It’s ripping our communities apart, ripping the soul of this nation, ripping at the very soul of the nation.

“And we have to do more to protect our schools so they aren’t turned into prisons.”


Chief Drake gives an initial afternoon press conference about the shooting.

Surveillance video capturing the shooter at the scene is also released.

Chief Drake later tells NBC that “resentment” may have been a factor in Hale’s motivations, commenting: “There’s some belief that there was some resentment for having to go to that school… She targeted random students in the school.

“Whoever she came in contact with, she fired rounds.”

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