By JONATHAN MATTISE (Associated Press)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Three children and three adults were killed Monday in a shooting at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville, and the shooter also died after being shot by police, authorities said.
The violence occurred at The Covenant School, a Presbyterian school for about 200 students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
Police said the shooter appeared to be a teenager and was armed with two assault rifles and a pistol.
The killings come as communities across the country reel from a wave of school violence, including the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas last year; a freshman who shot his teacher in Virginia; and a shooting last week in Denver that injured two administrators.
The Nashville victims were pronounced dead upon arrival at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital, according to Craig Boerner, a spokesperson for Vanderbilt University Medical Center, affiliated with the children’s hospital.
Other pupils made their way to safety on Monday, holding hands as they left their school surrounded by police cars, towards a nearby church to reunite with their parents.
Police with rifles, heavy vests and helmets could be seen walking through the school’s parking lot and around the grassy perimeter of the building on Monday morning. Helicopter footage from WTVF also showed the officers looking around a wooded area between the campus and a nearby road.
Jozen Reodica heard police sirens and fire engines wailing from outside his nearby office building. As her apartment building was locked, she pulled out her phone and recorded the chaos.
“I thought I would see this on TV,” she said. “And right now, it’s real.”
On WTVF TV, reporter Hannah McDonald said her mother-in-law worked at The Covenant School’s front desk. The woman had gone out for a break on Monday morning and was returning when she heard gunshots, McDonald said on a live broadcast. The reporter said she was unable to speak with her mother-in-law, but her husband did.
The Covenant School was founded as a ministry of the Covenant Presbyterian Church in 2001, according to the school’s website. The school is located in the affluent Green Hill neighborhood just south of downtown Nashville, close to the city’s top universities and home to the famous Bluebird Café, a favorite haunt for musicians and songwriters.
The primary school has 33 teachers, according to the website. The school’s website features the motto “Shepherding Hearts, Empowering Minds, Celebrating Childhood”.
Democratic state Rep. Bob Freeman, whose district includes The Covenant School, called Monday’s shooting “an unimaginable tragedy.”
“I live around the corner from Covenant and drive past it often. I have friends who attend both church and school there,” Freeman said in a statement. “I have also visited the church in the past. It breaks my heart to see this.