Investigators seeking clues to the latest bout of mass gun violence in the US pored over a “manifesto” and other writings uncovered after three children and three adults were shot dead at a Christian school by a 28-year-old former student.
The police killed the perpetrator of Monday’s shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, identified by authorities as local resident Audrey Elizabeth Hale, when they stormed the Covenant School within minutes of gunfire erupting in the private church-based academy.
Authorities did not immediately offer a motive for the killings. But Nashville Police Chief John Drake said in an NBC News interview that investigators believed Hale harboured “some resentment for having to go to that school” as a child. Drake did not elaborate.
During an earlier press briefing, the chief said Hale self-identified as being transgender, though Drake offered no further clarity. Drake and other officials repeatedly referred to the suspect with female pronouns.
Hale used male pronouns on a LinkedIn page that listed recent jobs in graphic design and grocery delivery.
Among various pieces of evidence under examination by police and FBI agents conducting an investigation were some writings by the assailant, including a “manifesto” and a detailed, hand-drawn map of the school showing various entry points, Drake said.
The chief told NBC the manifesto “indicates there was going to be shootings at multiple locations and that the school was one of them”. He said the Covenant School was singled out for attack but that the individual victims were targeted at random.
Authorities said Drake, armed with two assault-style weapons, one of them a rifle, as well as a 9mm pistol, gained entry to the school by shooting through the window of a side door.
Surveillance camera video posted online by police on Monday night shows the suspect, wearing camouflage pants and a black vest over a white T-shirt, with a red baseball cap on backwards, blasting through the glass pane of an outer door after driving up to the building in a car. The footage then shows the assailant stalking through a hallway as alarm lights flash.
The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department began receiving calls about a shooter at 10.13am (local time), and arriving officers reported hearing gunfire coming from the building’s second floor, police spokesperson Don Aaron told reporters.
Two officers from a five-member team shot the assailant in a lobby area, and the suspect was pronounced dead by 10.27am.
The three slain school children, all age 9, were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney. Also shot dead were staffers Mike Hill, 61, a school custodian, Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher, and Katherine Koonce, 60, listed on the Covenant website as “head of school”.
Reacting to the latest bloodshed, US President Joe Biden urged the US Congress again to pass tougher gun reform legislation, including an assault weapons ban.
The body camera footage showed officers rapidly searching for the shooter, in contrast to the videos showing officers in Uvalde, Texas.