Nashville school shooter previously posted online about death of partner, says teacher

Nashville school shooter previously posted online about death of partner, says teacher

Nashville school shooting suspectAudrey Hale had previously posted on Facebook about the death of a romantic partner, according to a former teacher.

Art college instructor Maria Colomy, who taught Hale at the Nossi College of Art & Design in Nashville, recalled a Facebook post from the shooter “openly grieving” the individual.

Speaking to The New York Times, Ms Colomy said that Hale had announced the bereavement and asked to be addressed as Aiden and by masculine pronouns from then on.

“She had been openly grieving about that on social media, and during the grieving is when she announced that she wanted to be addressed as a male,” the teacher said.

Police have identified the suspected shooter by their name at birth; Hale reportedly was a transgender man who used he/him pronouns, though law enforcement officials initially described the suspect as a woman in the aftermath of the shooting. Police did not provide another name but on the suspect’s social media accounts they refer to themselves as Aiden.

It is not clear who Hale’s romantic partner was. Social media accounts for Hale appear to have been taken down following Monday’s shooting where the 28-year-old allegedly killed six people at a private christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee.

That said, further reports quoting friends of Hale have since indicated the suspect had been left grief-stricken by the death of Sydney Shere Sims in a traffic accident in August 2022, a former classmate from the Isaiah T Creswell Middle School of the Arts and the Nashville School of the Arts whom Hale “definitely admired”.

One classmate, Samira Hardcastle, told The New York Post Hale had been “heartbroken” over the tragedy and characterised the suspect’s feelings as “maybe even infatuation” towards Sims, someone they “really, really looked up to”.

Sims’s family declined to comment further to The Independent.

The line of inquiry emerges as the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) continues its investigation into what drove Hale to launch the assault on The Covenant School in the Green Hills suburb of the southern city, which left three children aged nine and three members of staff dead.

Hale was also killed in the incident by a team of police responders, as captured in graphic bodycam footage released by police on Tuesday.

Ms Colomy also recalled an incident where Hale suffered an emotional outburst on the first day in class in 2017.

She told the Times that Hale had burst into tears of frustration after struggling to create a password for an online student portal.

At that point, Ms Colomy advised the student to step outside and take a breath. Hale did so, she said.

The teacher said this was the only time she witnessed Hale express an extreme emotion but thought it was noteworthy as an excessive reaction to a relatively unimportant problem.

Cyrus Vatandoost, the college’s president, confirmed that Hale had graduated from the school in 2022.

Since the shooting, some of the killer’s artwork has come to light, including an illustration of Jack Nicholson from Stanley Kubrick’s horror film “The Shining“.

Audrey Hale’s artwork included this drawing with ‘murder’ spelled backwards (AH Illustrations)
Audrey Hale’s artwork included this drawing with ‘murder’ spelled backwards (AH Illustrations)

Investigators have also retrieved a map and a manifesto from Hale’s family home, indicating plans for further targets, including the city mall.

A further stash of firearms was also found, in addition to the two assault rifles and one handgun used in the attack.

Hale’s three child victims have been named as students Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney.

Three adults – head teacher Katherine Koonce, 60, and staff members Cynthia Peak and Mike Hill, both 61 – were also killed by the shooter.

Koonce is said to have heroically ran towards Hale during the incident in a bid to stop the violence and shield the children.

Tennessee’s Republican governor Bill Lee revealed in a social media video on Tuesday evening that both Koonce and Peak had been personal friends of his and that the latter had been expected for dinner with his wife Maria on the day of her death.

He stopped short of calling for reforms to gun legislation in response to the incident but pledged to “act” when emotions were less raw.