The suspect was killed by police during a confrontation after shooting three schoolchildren and three staff at a Presbyterian school for about 200 students from preschool through sixth grade.

The shooter was armed with at least two semi-automatic rifles and a handgun.
The shooter was armed with at least two semi-automatic rifles and a handgun. (Reuters)

A heavily armed former student killed three young children and three staff before being shot dead by the police in what appeared to be a carefully planned attack at a private elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee.

Chief of Police John Drake named the suspect as Audrey Hale, 28, who the officer later said identified as transgender.

Hale left behind a manifesto, had maps of the school detailing surveillance and entry-exit points, and was "prepared for a confrontation with law enforcement," the police chief told reporters following the latest outburst of gun violence in the United States.

In an interview with NBC News, Drake said the suspect was likely plotting a broader attack, as the manifesto "indicates that there was going to be shootings at multiple locations, and the school was one of them."

Drake did not say exactly what drove the shooter to open fire at the school.

But he provided chilling examples of the shooter’s elaborate planning for the targeted attack, the latest in a series of mass shootings in a country that has grown increasingly unnerved by bloodshed in schools.

“We have a manifesto, we have some writings that we’re going over that pertain to this date, the actual incident,” he told reporters.
“We have a map drawn out of how this was all going to take place.”

Armed with at least two assault rifles and a handgun, Hale entered The Covenant School, a Christian academy, from a side entrance, allegedly shooting through a door -- firing multiple shots while advancing through the building, according to police.

Police identified the six victims, saying one of the three children was eight years old and two were aged nine, while the adults killed were aged 60 to 61.

One of the victims, Katherine Koonce, is listed as head of the school on the academy's website.

On Monday night, as the country digested another mass shooting that claimed the lives of children, people left flowers at a makeshift memorial outside the school. Some knelt down to pray.

The Covenant School was founded as a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church in 2001, according to the school’s website. The school is located in the affluent Green Hill neighbourhood just south of downtown Nashville, situated close to the city's top universities and home to the famed Bluebird Café – a beloved spot for musicians and songwriters.

President Joe Biden, speaking at the White House on Monday, called the shooting a “family’s worst nightmare” and implored Congress again to pass a ban on certain semi-automatic weapons.

"We have to do more to stop gun violence. It’s ripping our communities apart,” Biden said at the White House. "I call on Congress again to pass my assault weapons ban."

Biden, a Democrat, has repeatedly called for a renewed assault weapons ban and stricter rules on gun sales, measures that need to pass Congress.

The House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans; any new gun safety legislation is unlikely this year, key lawmakers say. 

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Source: AP