Nashville is being flooded with prayers after a woman who identified as transgender murdered six people at a Christian school on Monday.
Audrey Elizabeth Hale, who attended the school in her youth, killed three children and three adults at The Covenant School. Authorities say Hale left a manifesto outlining the attack including drawing out a detailed map of the school, which included potential entry points, and conducting surveillance of the building.
She was shot dead at the school after she killed children Evelyn Dieckhaus, William Kinney, and Hallie Scruggs, all aged 9, and Mike Hill, 61, Cynthia Peak, 61, and head of school Katherine Koonce, 60.
Media outlets have come under criticism for downplaying Hale’s preferred identity and not calling the attack a hate crime.
Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake told NBC News that investigators believed the shooting stemmed from “some resentment” Hale harbored “for having to go to that school” when she was younger.
“Writings recovered from Hale revealed that her attack was calculated and planned,” police said. “A search warrant executed at Hale’s Brightwood Avenue home resulted in the seizure of a sawed-off shotgun, a second shotgun, and other evidence.”
Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) has called on police to publicly release a manifesto and said transgender individuals need help.
In a post on Twitter late Monday, Burchett said he and his wife Kelly are “praying for everyone at The Covenant School, especially the families of the shooting victims.”
“No one should have to go through that kind of horrific event or lose a loved one like that,” Burchett said. “I’m so thankful to those brave folks who brought down the shooter and took care of the students and their families.”
The Covenant School is a private Christian institution founded in 2001 and teaches children up to sixth grade, according to its website.
Prayers are being offered by Christian leaders from around the country.
Lauren Daigle postponed a planned concert on Monday night, March 27, and instead hosted a prayer vigil for the victims of a mass shooting at Nashville’s The Covenant School.
“Today’s shooting is truly heartbreaking for our Nashville community and all of those impacted,” the Christian singer responded in a statement. “I’m going to postpone my performance tonight, and in its place, host a community-wide Prayer Vigil. To everyone who was planning to come out, please continue to come join us as we share in a time of prayer and worship to honor the victims and everyone in need.”
The school is popular with Christians in the Nashville music scene, including many well-known singers or their friends and family.
Darren Mulligan, lead singer for We Are Messengers, posted a Facebook video Monday. The band is on tour with Casting Crowns played a show Monday night in Texas.
“We are all just really heartbroken,” Mulligan stated. “We all have friends that have kids in that school or close to that school. It brings it all too close to home, about what sin does to people. Today is not a day to go on a rant but rather just to say that we are really, really sorry.”
“My family and I live a few miles from the school where today’s tragic shooting occurred,” says Matthew West on Facebook. “My heart aches for the parents who lost a child, family members who lost a loved one, and the children who had to witness something so traumatic.”
West concluded his post with a prayer asking God to be near the brokenhearted.
“This hits all too close to home, literally,” says Joel Smallbone of For King & Country on Facebook. “Covenant School used to open their gym to Luke’s basketball team for practices and games, and it’s located less than 15 miles from where Moriah and I live.”
National figures were also quick to offer comfort and prayers.
“Please join me in praying for the students, faculty, staff, and families of The Covenant School in Nashville, TN, in the wake of a shooting this morning where at least three children and three adults are reported dead. May God comfort and uphold these families,” Franklin Graham, head of Samaritan’s Purse wrote on Twitter.
Conservative commentator Candace Owens
Christian and political commentator Candace Owens said she was “devastated” by the shooting.
“I live in Green Hills and am positively devastated for the families impacted by this tragedy. Please suspend your politics and instead do what these families at this Christian School would want: pray. Pray for The Covenant School,” she wrote.
Owens commented on the shooter being female that is “virtually unheard of,” adding: “We deserve to learn everything we can about this individual.”
“There are people live-streaming the FBI who have descended upon a house in Nashville related to the shooting. They know the identity and are not informing the public. Ask yourself why?”
Pastor Jesse Bradley, a Seattle-area faith leader, observed that “our nation is grieving once again.”
He also added, “Innocent children are no longer with us. It’s another tragedy beyond words and heartache that can’t be measured. What a sobering and terrifying reality that schools no longer feel safe. Where can we turn and what can we do?”
“On a deeper level, America has drifted from ‘In God We Trust.’ This spiritual wandering in our nation has become evident in many facets of our culture, and this type of violence is devastating.”
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team revealed late Monday that they are sending crisis-trained chaplains and the Mobile Ministry Center to Nashville.
“Please keep this community in your prayers.” the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team wrote on Facebook.
–Metro Voice from and wire services