NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Six people, including three children, were killed at The Covenant School, part of Covenant Presbyterian Church in the Green Hills area of Nashville on Monday.
Those gunned down include three 9-year-olds and the headmaster of the school.
According to Metro Nashville Police, students Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney were killed by the shooter, who has now been identified as 28-year-old Audrey Hale.
Three staff members killed have also been identified: Cynthia Peak, 61, Katherine Koonce, 60, and Mike Hill, 61.
Dr. Katherine Koonce was the Director of School, according to law enforcement.
“If there was any trouble in that school, she would run to it, not from it,” Jackie Bailey said of her friend Koonce. “She was trying to protect those kids … That’s just what I believe.”
Cynthia Peak was reportedly a substitute teacher at the school, according to MNPD Spokesman Don Aaron.
Cynthia Peak was described as a “sweet person from a sweet family” by Chuck Owen, who told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that they grew up together in Leesville, Louisiana, and that Peak was a lifelong friend.
When he heard that Peak was killed in the shooting, “It took my breath away,” Owen said. “You don’t expect something like this. It just took the wind out of me.”
Mike Hill, a custodian on the campus, had worked at the school for 15 years. Fondly referred to as ‘Big Mike,’ he tried to know every student by name and met every day with a smile on his face, according to former pastor Jim Bachmann.
Hill’s family released the following statement:
“We would like to thank the Nashville community for all the continued thoughts and prayers. As we grieve and try to grasp any sense of understanding of why this happened, we continue to ask for support. We pray for the Covenant School and are so grateful that Michael was beloved by the faculty and students who filled him with joy for 14 years. He was a father of seven children (Marquita Oglesby, Brittany Hill, Shakita Dobbins, Ebony Smith, Joshua Smith, Tawana Smith Garner, Jeremy Smith) and 14 grandchildren. He liked to cook and spend time with family.”
The Covenant Presbyterian Church’s senior pastor, Chad Scruggs, confirmed to ABC News that one of his children, Hallie Scruggs, was killed in the shooting.
“We are heartbroken. She was such a gift. Through tears we trust that she is in the arms of Jesus who will raise her to life once again.”
The family of Evelyn Dieckhaus also released a statement, describing the 9-year-old as a “shining light.”
“Our hearts are completely broken. We cannot believe this happened. Evelyn was a shining light in the world. We appreciate all the love and support but ask for space as we grieve,” said the Dieckhaus family.
A tweet from Metro Nashville Police identified the victims and their ages — during a press conference Monday afternoon, MNPD Chief John Drake referenced that one student was 8 years old going on 9 years old.
The students were among the roughly 200 students attending The Covenant School, which serves preschool through sixth grade. The school also employs about 50 staff members.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.