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Nashville grieves shooting at Christian school

Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville was packed Monday night (March 27) with those gathering to mourn and pay respects in the wake of a shooting earlier that day at a Presbyterian school a few miles away. Screen capture from Facebook

NASHVILLE (BP) – Southern Baptists are among those in the Nashville community grieving after a mass shooting at Covenant School, a pre-K through sixth grade private Christian school in the Green Hills neighborhood, left three students and three staff members dead.

The shooting took place Monday, March 27, just after 10 a.m. The 28-year-old shooter, Nashville resident Audrey Hale, was killed by officers from the Metro Nashville Police Department 14 minutes after beginning the attack.

Hale, identified by police as a former student at Covenant School, entered the building by shooting through the school’s side doors, went to the second floor and shot at police vehicles outside.

Officers entered the building, where they would engage Hale in gunfire. The two officers who fired on Hale were Rex Englebert and Michael Collazo.

The victims of the shooting are:

Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9

Hallie Scruggs, 9

William Kinney, 9

Cynthia Peak, 61

Katherine Koonce, 60

Mike Hill, 61

Koonce was principal at Covenant, and Scruggs was the daughter of Chad Scruggs, pastor of the school’s founding church, Covenant Presbyterian.

Police said the shooting was “calculated and planned.” A search of Hale’s home found further weapons, a manifesto, and a map of Covenant School as well as a potential second location she was never able to reach. An investigation is ongoing.

Police originally identified Hale as a woman, but later said Hale identified as transgender.

According to reporting from NBC News, a LinkedIn profile for Hale, last updated 10 months ago, listed he/him as preferred pronouns.

Southern Baptists were among the first to minister in wake of the tragedy, as nearby Woodmont Baptist Church was used as a refuge for students waiting to be picked up by parents.

Randy Davis, president and CEO of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board (TBMB), spoke to the tragic shooting and Woodmont’s immediate ministry.  

“Like so many, I had a hard time sleeping last night, thinking about the tragic events that transpired at Covenant School,” Davis said.

“Such a devastating and unnecessary loss of life. My heart just breaks and goes out to the families of those who suffered loss and to the Covenant community. This hits close to home, as there are many connections between Tennessee Baptists and friends and family who are a part of the Covenant family.

“I am extremely proud of Woodmont Baptist Church and Pastor Nathan Parker. The church quickly responded to the need to receive the children and care for them until they were reunited with parents. They showed the love of Christ and deep compassion.”

Michael Kelley, executive director of the Nashville Baptist Association, spoke to the need for local churches to grieve together alongside those in community who are hurting.

“In our office just like the rest of the city, we are grieving and lamenting,” Kelley said. “We want to do the best we can to do what Romans 12 says in grieving with those who grieve, and you don’t have to look very far to find people in the city who are grieving.

“From an association perspective, the reason that we exist is to try to help churches help other churches. We try to help link churches together for mutual support, encouragement, grieving and mourning so we can walk through this together in faith. 

“This is a moment in which cooperation is a good thing because tragedy by its very nature has a very galvanizing effect for people. It helps us move forward when we know that we are not alone, and we should as a community of churches all bear the weight of some of the loss.”

Davis exhorted Southern Baptists to move forward with Gospel hope.

“This event ought to be a resounding reminder to Christians that we’ve got to be salt and light in this increasingly dark world,” Davis said. “Our only hope is faith in Jesus Christ. We’ve got to advance the message of the Gospel.”