In 911 calls made during Monday’s mass shooting in Nashville that was released on Thursday, callers cried for help while the sounds of sirens, weeping, and gunfire could be heard in the background.
After the attack at The Covenant School, in which six people, including three children, were killed, police released recordings of various calls made during the attack. One man informs the dispatcher that he and a large group, including children, are leaving the Christian school and heading toward a major thoroughfare.
The man maintains his composure, but the background noise of arguing adults and children’s voices betrays the tense and chaotic nature of the scene. When asked by the dispatcher for a description of the gunman, the caller transfers the phone to another individual.
“All I saw was a man holding an assault rifle shooting through the door. It was — he’s currently in the second-grade hallway, upstairs” the second man says, noting the assailant was dressed in camouflage and wearing a vest.
A woman says, “I heard approximately 10 and I left the building” when asked how many shots were fired. Another caller reported hearing gunfire from the safety of a closet in the art room.
A caller may be heard saying “It sounds like somebody is shooting guns,” around 10:13 a.m. She suddenly observed that the gunfire had stopped. Two other callers had reported hearing gunfire at the school, and the dispatcher inquired if she was in a secure location.
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The caller answered, “I suppose so,” with the sound of children in the background. The educator later reported hearing additional gunfire, which is audible on the video as muffled thuds. “I’m hearing more shots,” the caller said. “Please hurry.“
A third caller indicated he was on the second floor in a room and needed assistance. “I think we have a shooter at our church,” he said, later adding: “I’m on the second floor in a room. I think the shooter is on the second floor.”
One caller can be heard telling another to “stay down underneath the sink in the bathroom,” before shots are fired, and the caller also reports to dispatchers that the shooter passed by his office at some point during the almost 17-minute video that was released Thursday evening.
The caller may be heard repeatedly giving 911 instructions to other people. As the caller gives the attending officers information about where his wife is located in the building, the video cuts off abruptly. Callers can be heard whispering on other recordings, some of which also have children weeping.
Mayor John Cooper of Nashville stated that within 14 minutes of receiving word of the school shooting, officers had taken down the assailant. He remarked on “CBS Mornings” that the rapid response saved “many lives.”
The attack claimed the lives of three adults and three 9-year-old children. Police reportedly shot and killed the suspect, a former student named Audrey Hale, 28. People were protesting for stricter gun laws at the Tennessee Capitol after the school shooting, and the release of the tapes coincided with their arrival there.
Protesters had set up shop inside and outside the Capitol, and their chants of “Save our children!” resonated loudly in the corridors connecting the state Senate and House chambers. The Senate gallery was filled with quiet observers, some of whom were children holding signs stating “I’m nine” in memory of the slain children.
Several of the demonstrators started shouting, “Children are dead!” at the MPs, thus the majority of them were eventually removed from the gallery. Republican politicians united alongside first lady Jill Biden, Democratic lawmakers, and performers like Sheryl Crow at a candlelight vigil in Nashville on Wednesday night.
Crow has urged for tougher gun laws in the wake of the assault. Speaker after speaker at the somber and emotional vigil read the names of the dead and expressed condolences to their loved ones, but abstained from making any political statements.
"Please hurry": Nashville authorities have released 911 calls from the elementary school shooting that left six people dead. https://t.co/Zg0gAWPdFX
— 48 Hours (@48hours) March 30, 2023
“Just two days ago was our city’s worst day,” Cooper said. “I so wish we weren’t here, but we need to be here.” On Monday morning, the shooter allegedly drove up to the school, blasted out the glass doors, and entered the building, where he or she began firing randomly. Eventually, police opened fire and killed the gunman.
Students Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, principal Katherine Koonce, 60, substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61, and custodian Mike Hill, 61, were all shot and killed.
Tennessee’s Republican governor, Bill Lee, who has called for less restrictive gun regulations and increased school security and who once suggested that prayer may protect the state from school massacres and other things, was not present at the vigil on Wednesday.
During a video statement released on Tuesday, Lee revealed that Peak was a close friend of his wife, Maria and that the couple had made plans to have dinner together on Monday.
“Maria woke up this morning without one of her best friends,” Lee added in a video statement, recalling that his wife had shared the classroom with Peak and Koonce in the past. “have been family friends for decades,” he added of the women.
Since the school tragedy happened last week, Lee has stayed out of the spotlight and hasn’t suggested any actions his administration could take. Republican state leaders, following the pattern of other responses to gun violence, have not called for stricter gun regulations but have instead put their support behind increased school security.
Republican Lt. Governor Randy McNally wrote a letter to Lee urging the installation of window and glass locks, magnetic door locks, updated surveillance cameras, and additional armed guards at schools.
“While these changes would come with a cost, I believe it is important for us to have a conversation about how to increase and modernize security at schools in Tennessee,” McNally wrote.
McNally told reporters on Thursday that he supports red flag laws like Florida’s in addition to boosting school safety procedures. At the same time, Republican senators from Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn, and Bill Hagerty, were working to pass a bill that would allocate $900 million to “harden” schools and add security staff.
The SAFE School Act, which Blackburn and Hagerty announced they would submit on Thursday, would grant funding to help public and private schools train military veterans and retired law enforcement officers to provide security. They also suggested using the funds to increase patrols and other forms of physical protection.
Blackburn attempted to pass comparable legislation during the previous Congress, but her efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. Police have not speculated on a motive, but have said only that they believe the gunman didn’t target specific people and had “some resentment for having to go to that school.”
According to a research by KFF, a non-profit offering health policy analysis and journalism, firearms have lately surpassed motor vehicle deaths and other accidents as the leading cause of mortality for adolescents and teenagers in the United States.
According to a database produced by The Associated Press, USA Today, and Northeastern University, 175 people have been killed in 15 mass shootings events associated with U.S. schools and universities since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.
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