1st funeral for Nashville school shooting victim held; police release terrifying 911 calls of attack

Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9, was the first victim of Monday's shooting at The Covenant School to have a funeral service

ByAya Elamroussi, CNN
Saturday, April 1, 2023
Covenant shooting: Funeral held for Evelyn Dieckhaus a day after police release terrifying 911 calls of attack
The first funeral connected to this week's massacre of three children and three adults at a private Christian school in Nashville happened Friday.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The first funeral connected to this week's massacre of three children and three adults at a private Christian school in Nashville happened Friday, a day after officials released distressing 911 calls reporting the shooting in the Tennessee city.

Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9, was the first victim of Monday's shooting at The Covenant School to have a funeral service, which happened Friday afternoon at a Nashville church.

The shooter, a former Covenant School student, also killed 9-year-old students William Kinney and Hallie Scruggs; Katherine Koonce, the 60-year-old head of the school; Cynthia Peak, a 61-year-old substitute teacher; and Mike Hill, a 61-year-old custodian, before police shot and killed the shooter inside the school, authorities said.

On Thursday, Nashville officials made public the 911 calls that came from inside and outside the school as the carnage unfolded.

Many of the callers spoke in hushed whispers, saying they were barricaded in rooms and heard numerous gunshots in the school.

On one 911 call, a woman identified herself as a teacher as she desperately pleaded for help. "Please send someone soon," she whispered.

The dispatcher responded that police were already at the school. "They're trying to get to you," the dispatcher said.

The teacher said she and 17 children were in a room and uninjured. The dispatcher warned her that she may have to face the shooter and fight.

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"Stay where you're at, and don't come out until the police come, unless you need to flee or fight, OK?" the dispatcher instructed.

Another caller, an adult man, told a dispatcher, "Oh my God. I'm afraid I'm going to die," as he was locked in his office.

Meanwhile, Chad Scruggs -- the senior pastor of a Presbyterian church associated with the school, and the father of one of the slain children -- also called 911.

Scruggs, who was not in the school, told a dispatcher he was receiving calls about the shooting from people inside, and that he was headed toward the school. There's no indication during the call that the pastor knew his child was shot.

"You may not want to go there without police, sir. You may need to go somewhere else and wait for police," the dispatcher told him.

The calls offer a heart-wrenching glimpse into terrifying moments others have experienced on US school campuses, in a nation where research shows guns recently became the leading cause of death for children and teenagers.

The attack was the 19th shooting at an American school or university in 2023 in which at least one person was wounded, according to a CNN tally, and the deadliest since a May attack in Uvalde, Texas, left 21 dead.

The funeral services for Hallie and Peak will be on Saturday, and William's is scheduled for Sunday. Services for Hill and Koonce are set for Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

The 911 calls were released as a motive for the shooter, identified as 28-year-old Audrey Hale, remains unclear.

What we know about the shooter

Although investigators are continuing to dig for a possible motive for the shooting, officials believe the attack was planned and calculated, police have said.

Hale was under a doctor's care for an emotional disorder, Nashville Police Chief John Drake said earlier this week. Hale legally bought seven guns in the past three years, and they were kept hidden from Hale's parents, who lived in the same house, Drake said.

Police also recovered a notebook in which Hale had written extensively about the shooting and drew detailed maps of the school, Drake said.

The FBI, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and police have been combing through the writings, Drake said. The documents will be released after investigators are done examining them, according to Nashville City Council member Robert Swope.

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Police have referred to Hale as a "female shooter," and later said Hale was transgender and used male pronouns on a social media profile.

Hale attended Nossi College of Art & Design and graduated last year, the school's president told CNN. A LinkedIn profile indicates Hale worked as a freelance graphic designer and a part-time grocery shopper.

Over the last year, Hale posted on Facebook about the death of a girl with whom Hale apparently played basketball and a request to be referred to by the name Aiden and male pronouns, according to Maria Colomy, a teacher who taught Hale for two semesters in 2017.

Cody, a former art school classmate of Hale, echoed those details to CNN, saying the volume of posts was significant enough to be noticed.

"It must have been their best friend," said Cody, who asked to be identified by his first name only.

Cody said he thought Hale had "a weird child-like obsession with staying a child." Hale was reserved and serious about artwork, which teachers lauded, he said.

"The art couldn't be more childish, family-friendly, G-rated, to a nauseating degree almost," and filled with "very garish, bright colors," Cody said.

'Any child killed by gun violence is our own child,' parent says

Since the shooting, people have come to the Tennessee capitol by the scores to advocate for gun control legislation.

Andrew Maraniss, who demonstrated Thursday at the capitol and has children ages 9 and 12, spoke on the importance of protesting for safer gun laws.

"I felt like there was nothing more important to do this morning as a parent and as a citizen than to make my voice heard and to try to do my part to protect children," Maraniss told CNN. "As parents, I think we need to act as if any child killed by gun violence is our own child and act accordingly."

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As the shooting unfolded inside The Covenant School, teachers followed a series of steps that prevented even more deaths, security consultant Brink Fidler told CNN.

"The teachers knew exactly what to do, how to fortify their doors and where to place their children in those rooms," Fidler said.

"Their ability to execute literally flawlessly under that amount of stress while somebody trying to murder them and their children, that is what made the difference here," Fidler said.

"These teachers are the reason those kids went home to their families," he added.

Fidler spoke to CNN after he did a walk-through of the school with Nashville officials Wednesday. All of the victims had been in an open area or hallway, he said.

"Several (people) were able to evacuate safely. The ones that couldn't do that safely did exactly what they were taught and trained to do," he said.

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