Ex-student, 28, who killed six at Christian school had 'resentment'

Did trans murderer have a grudge? Ex-student, 28, who went on bloody rampage at Christian elementary school killing six had ‘resentment for having to go to that school’, say police as they try and pin down a motive

  • Audrey Hale had drawn a detailed map of school including potential entry points
  • Hale conducted surveillance of the building before carrying out the massacre
  • The suspect is responsible for shooting at The Covenant School that left six dead

A former student who killed three children and three adults at a Christian elementary school in Nashville had ‘some resentment for having to go to that school’, cops said in their bid to pin down a motive.

Nashville police chief John Drake said police are still investigating what drove the killer – who they named as Audrey Hale, 28 – to open fire on Monday morning at The Covenant School, where she used to be a student, before being shot dead by police.

He said in an interview with NBC News that investigators believe the killer had ‘some resentment for having to go to that school’. 

He also provided chilling examples of the killer’s elaborate planning for the shooting as she had a map of the building and conducted surveillance before carrying out the attack, massing shootings across the nation.

‘We have a manifesto, we have some writings that we’re going over that pertain to this date, the actual incident,’ he told reporters. ‘We have a map drawn out of how this was all going to take place.’    

Nashville police chief John Drake did not say what drove the killer – who they named as Audrey Hale, 28 – to open fire on Monday morning at The Covenant School, where she used to be a student, before being shot dead by police

Audrey Hale in her LinkedIn profile picture: Hale describes herself as an illustrator and graphic designer

Drake said police had a theory in relation to Hale’s motive ‘they may be able to talk about later but it’s not confirmed’. 

He promised the theory on the motive would be made public as soon as police can do so.

A high school friend of Hale was shocked to learn the outgoing girl she ran track with was behind the massacre that left six dead at a Christian campus. 

The friend, who requested to remain anonymous, described Hale as ‘sweet and funny’ hours after the suspect opened fire at The Covenant School, shooting and killing three nine-year-olds and three staff on Monday.

Cops said Hale was transgender, although they haven’t specified further details and referred to her as a woman. Hale was born female, but a LinkedIn profile believed to be hers uses he/him pronouns, suggesting Hale was living as a man.

‘We have a manifesto, we have some writings that we’re going over that pertain to this date, the actual incident,’ police chief Drake told reporters. ‘We have a map drawn out of how this was all going to take place.’

The friend recalled her faint memories with Hale at the Nashville School of the Arts from around 2011 to 2014. 

‘What she did was unforgivable but when I knew her she was a sweet and funny girl,’ the friend told DailyMail.com. ‘When she came out as trans (female to male) no one was surprised.

‘She really didn’t fit the school shooter archetype. I don’t know what would have happened to turn her into this person we see on the news. Everyone in my graduating class is losing it on Facebook. Really none would have seen this coming.’ 

The friend referred to Hale as  ‘her’ because she knew the suspect as a female before the 28-year-old transitioned after graduation. 

‘We went to Nashville School of the Arts in high school, where we had several trans students and others who were a part of the LGBTQ community,’ the friend said. ‘We were both in Visual Arts classes together and she was very involved with the school and had several friends.’ 

Hallie Scruggs is seen with her father Chad Scruggs, the pastor at the Presbyterian church affiliated with the school

Substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61, aka Cindy Broyles Peak, is shown with her daughter Ellie. Peak was one of six people shot to death at Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee on March 27, 2023

Along with participating in the same clubs, the friend also knew Hale as a team player.

‘We ran track together as well for [Martin Luther King Jr. School] (a sister magnet school) and she was a great part of the team,’ the friend said. 

The friend added: ‘I’d never defend anyone that would hurt a child. But really it’s still really hard to believe that she did this. I thought for sure it was a mistake at first. The whole situation is so surreal.

‘She really did have a good group of friends and she did a lot of projects and school activities. Not at all what you would expect from someone in this kind of news headline.’ 

DailyMail.com obtained messages from the Nashville School of Arts alumni page where several former classmates of Hale were in disbelief.

‘This is crazy y’all,’ one person wrote. ‘I’m sure all of us could say the Audrey we knew back in high school was so opposite from who they were this morning. 

‘Its tough enough to grasp if we even knew Audrey, you know? I know this is a shock to the NSA fam. My heart breaks for those sweet families who lost loved ones this morning.’ 

Another alumni added: ‘JESUS!!’ 

The Nossi College of Art & Design said Hale was a 2022 graduate of their Nashville-based school, according to NBC News. 

In a statement, the school said Hale was a ‘talented artist and a good student’ during her time at the college.

The school added: ‘Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family, to the victims and their families and to our city.’ 

All six victims were identified on Monday. They were nine-year-olds Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, and three members of staff Cynthia Peak and Mike Hill, both 61, and school head Dr. Katherine Koonce, 60. 

Katherine Koonce, head of school (left), and Mike Hill, a custodian (right) were among those shot dead by Audrey Hale

Audrey Hale receiving a certificate at Nossi College of Art in Nashville

Hale went into The Covenant School around 10.13am, opened fire and was killed by police less than 15 minutes later.

Aside from the three students, all aged nine, pronounced dead, Hale also killed substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61, head of school Katherine Koonce, 60, and custodian Mike Hill, 61. 

After the killing, parents rushed to the school to see if their children were safe and tearfully hugged their kids, and a stunned community held vigils for the victims.

Rachel Dibble, who was at a nearby church where children were taken to be reunited with their parents, described everyone as being in ‘complete shock’.

‘People were involuntarily trembling,’ she said. ‘The children … started their morning in their cute little uniforms, they probably had some Froot Loops and now their whole lives changed today.’

The suspect drove to school in a Honda Fit, which was discovered in the Covenant Church/school campus early Monday. Nashville police said it helped identify her.

‘MNPD detectives searched it and found additional material written by Hale,’ police said. 

It’s unclear what Hale’s motive was, but police believe she attended the school at some point. She had detailed, drawn maps of the school and had been surveilling it, according to police.

Police said Hale left behind a manifesto they believe will give them a motive into the massacre, the 129th in the United States in 2023. 

‘We have a manifesto, we have some writings that we’re going over that pertain to this day,’ Nashville Police Chief John Drake said. ‘We have a map drawn out of how this was all gonna to take place. There’s right now a theory that we may put out later but it’s not confirmed. We’ll put that out as soon as we can.’ 

Audrey Hale’s Honda Fit which she parked at The Covenant School campus before opening fire inside the school

As officers responded to the Covenant campus, Hale fired on arriving police vehicles from a second story window

A police car which Audrey Hale fired upon from a second story window once she had blasted her way into The Covenant School in Nashville on Monday 

Cracked glass can be seen in a second story window where Audrey Hale fired on an approaching cop car outside The Covenant School

A child weeps while on the bus leaving The Covenant School, following a mass shooting at the school in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. March 27, 2023

Children from The Covenant School hold hands as they are taken to a reunification site at the Woodmont Baptist Church after a shooting at their school, on Monday March, 27, 2023

Drake said that Hale mentioned another location in her manifesto, but decided that there was too much security to launch an attack. 

According to the chief, Hale and no criminal history and said he did not know of any history of mental illness, though investigators were still looking into that. 

Founded as a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church, The Covenant School is located in the affluent Green Hills neighbourhood just south of central Nashville that is home to the famed Bluebird Cafe – a spot typically beloved by musicians and songwriters.

The school has about 200 students from pre-school through sixth grade, as well as roughly 50 staff members.

‘Our community is heartbroken,’ a statement from the school said. ‘We are grieving tremendous loss and are in shock coming out of the terror that shattered our school and church. We are focused on loving our students, our families, our faculty and staff and beginning the process of healing.’

The small school is run by a church and does not employ a school resource officer. 

Hale styled herself as an illustrator, drawing under the name Aiden. She received an education from Nossi College of Art in Nashville for digital art and design. 

Her work included renderings of Sponge Bob Squarepants, a Keith Haring tribute, and a drawing of Jack Nicholson in the film The Shining, with his infamous quote: ‘Here’s Johnny!’ 

Photos of Audrey receiving an award in spring 2017 at Nossi has since surfaced. 

Audrey – who drew under the male name Aiden – was an illustrator and graphic designer

Hale styled herself as an illustrator, drawing under the name Aiden. Pictured: Two of Hale’s artworks 

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