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Nashville PD: Female Shooter Kills Three Children, Three Adults At School. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 27, 2023 - 14:00   ET



ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: The tragedy in any way, Alex. It's still an absolutely horrific thing that's happened. It may shed light on how she came into possession of those weapons. It's much easier for a 28-year-old to purchase firearms than it is for a teenager. But we'll have to -- we'll have to wait and see as that plays out, we get more information from the locals on the scene.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: All right, Andrew McCabe, thanks as always, for all of your expertise. We're sorry, you got to come in for this horrible news. CNN BREAKING NEWS continues right now.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Boris Sanchez.


Once again, a school shooting in America. Now, what's rare about this recurring nightmare in the U.S. is that we're hearing this time the shooter was a woman. Nashville Police reporting that the shooter was 28 years old. This, as families are gathering in despair at the Covenant School in Nashville.

Police say the shooter went on a rampage inside the small private school located inside a church gunning down three children and three adults. The call came in at 10:13 a.m. local time. A short time ago, a spokesman said police came upon the attacker as she was opening fire and killed her.


DON AARON, NASHVILLE POLICE SPOKESPERSON: Officers entered the first story of the school. Began clearing it. They heard shots coming from the second level. They immediately went to the gunfire.

When the officers got to the second level, they saw a shooter, a female who was firing. The officers engaged her. She was fatally shot by responding police officers.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GOLODRYGA: Now, this situation is still unfolding and authorities are directing families to a reunification center. This woman says her mother is a teacher at the school.


AVERY MYRICK, DAUGHTER OF TEACHER AT SCHOOL: My dad just woke me up this morning and told me that my mom said there was a shooter at the school. And then I texted her. And I said just like what was going on? She said she was hiding in the closet and that there are shooting all over and that they had potentially tried to get into a room. A really scary, really sad just praying for all the families out there.


SANCHEZ: Let's get straight to CNN's Amara Walker, who has been tracking the latest details for us. Amara, just seconds before we came on the air, police in Nashville came forward saying this was a 28- year-old woman. It appears that they've identified her.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Right. This is probably one of the more shocking aspects of this horrific tragedy. The shooter being identified as a female. Nashville police are currently working to identify this person who they believed was possibly a teen at first, but now they're saying she is 28 years old.

We don't know what her connection was to this private school if she had any connections. We know the school that she went into this morning and started shooting in was a private Christian school for pre-K through sixth graders, a very small school. On a typical day about 200 students would attend classes there.

Also, very disturbing to learn that this woman, from Nashville police, she was heavily armed, two assault -style rifles and a handgun. And I think something that stood out to a lot of people when we're listening to this news conference was, you know, a reporter asked about a school resource officer, a security guard being there on site. And Don Aaron the Nashville police officer who was giving that news conference said no, there was no security. There was no school resource officer. This is a church. It's a Presbyterian Church that also houses this private school.

This gun -- this woman, this -- the suspect entering this church, which is also a school from a side entrance. What's remarkable is that she did not get inside a classroom. Police responded very quickly.

So, the call came in at 10:13. 14 minutes later, there were five officers who arrived into the school. They -- and there were two officers of that five who made it to the second floor where this woman was, and they shot at her and they killed her within 14 minutes of the first call coming in.

This is a huge tragedy because we're talking about three children who have been killed as a result. We don't know their ages. But again, we could only presume that obviously, these are -- these are the smallest victims you can imagine right? I mean, pre-K could be as young as four years old, sixth grade as old as 11 to 12 years old, and then also three adults, three staff members of the school or church that, remains unclear, who were also killed as a result of the shooting. So, we're talking about six total victims, and of course, a seventh being the shooter who was killed by these two responding police officers.


Remarkably, nobody else was injured except for a police officer we did hear, who had some minor injuries from shattered glass. But you know, I just want to emphasize because I have a child who goes to one of these church schools what have -- you know if you will. This is -- the school is called The Covenant Presbyterian School. And again, it's as you -- we've been hearing through social media, it seems to be a very tight-knit community, you know, especially with this school being housed within a church.

But it seems right now -- I mean, clearly, this is still an active scene. It will be for many, many hours. And my heart goes out to the parents, you know, who are hearing about this. You know, rushing to the campus. There is a staging area, or reunification area at a nearby church where parents are showing up not knowing what happened to their children, giving their child's name to police and you know, waiting to hear if their children made it out alive.

It looks like that process is still ongoing. You can see Nashville police have swarmed the scene. We know the FBI is also -- has also deployed agents to the scene to help in this investigation. But once again, here we are, guys, talking about another mass shooting, and yet again, another school being targeted.

GOLODRYGA: Amara, you've been covering this since the first reports came out just a couple of hours ago. And you're so right that this is every parent's worst nightmare to have to worry about their children and hear reports about a shooting at their school and now, some two or three hours later, still not getting confirmation as to the names of these children. And also, we noted that three faculty members and adults were also killed. Amara Walker, thank you so much.

Well, joining us now on the phone is State Senator Heidi Campbell. She represents the area where the shooting occurred. I'm so sorry that we have to speak under these circumstances. I know that this is a national nightmare that we've been covering at nauseam throughout just this year alone, 129 mass shootings and we're not even into the month of April. And yet for you, this is trauma for an area that is tight- knit and small. Can you tell us a bit about this Covenant School? I know that we heard from the police spokesman that on a typical day, it houses just 209 students.

HEIDI CAMPBELL, DEMOCRATIC STATE SENATOR, TENNESSEE (voiceover): Yes, that's right. This is a very small school and the community are being very supportive of one another, but no parent should ever have to go through a day like these parents are going through today where they're sitting in a sanctuary wondering if their child is OK. And even if they know that their child is OK, knowing that someone else's child has been hurt and knowing that the trauma that their kids have gone through is never going to be remediated because this is such a horrific event.

SANCHEZ: State Senator Campbell, I'm wondering if you're familiar with families that may have students at the Covenant School. And if you could share with us what was your initial reaction to hearing that this was unfolding in your community?

CAMPBELL: Well, you know, my stomach dropped to the floor just like everybody else in this community. Because yes, of course, we know families with children at the schools. And quite frankly, I would say that it doesn't even matter if you do or you don't.

This is a state's gun culture that we're living in. And if there was ever a time when we needed to remind ourselves that common sense gun reforms are necessary, this would be that moment because this is -- this does not have to happen. This is -- this is insane.

GOLODRYGA: Are you hearing from residents in the area?

CAMPBELL: Yes, I've been -- I've been with the families in the sanctuary all day. I'm calling you right now from the -- from the sanctuary. And at this moment, we are reuniting these children with their families. And you know, if I were one of these parents, I could not get to my child fast enough.

So, they have been incredibly patient. And this has just been a very, very tough day for this community and for these parents and for this school. And keep in mind that there were also several faculty members that were hurt and died, I think. We're still trying to find out exactly what happened. But that they -- their families are also here trying to get information about what's happened to their loved ones.

SANCHEZ: And what's your message to those parents when you're talking to them? They could understandably be panicking right now, uncertain about their loved ones. What are you saying to them?


CAMPBELL: We're just trying to give them as much love and support as we can, you know, the very simple things like staying hydrated. And we've opened the windows in the sanctuary so that people can get some fresh air because it can just be a suffocating situation for people. And it's -- this is a wonderful school and a wonderful community so everybody has been very supportive of one another. But you know, it's one of those moments where the minutes seem like hours.

GOLODRYGA: Well, State Senator Heidi Campbell, please keep us posted on anything that you're hearing. We will be covering this, obviously, as we get more information as well. I have a friend who lives in the area and she said her son is at school nearby. A neighbor of hers has children at this very school, Covenant School as well. So, I'm checking in with her.

It is just a country's worst nightmare. It doesn't even have to be a parent's worst nightmare, as you said that this is a tragedy that's unique to this country. Thank you so much for your time and please do keep us posted.

CAMPBELL: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: We want to expand the conversation now and bring in some experts who are as we all are becoming all too familiar with these kinds of tragedies. Joining us now is the former Boston police commissioner Ed Davis, and CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem. Juliette, a number of things stand out to me about this incident.


SANCHEZ: As I noted, they are far too common. There was one in Denver last week. Before there was one in Iowa. Before that, there was one not far from where I am in Virginia but what's unusual about this, this was a 28-year-old woman, apparently.


SANCHEZ: That's an uncommon profile for these kinds of shooters.

KAYYEM: Yes, very much. So, there's -- and the fact -- and the fact that it's not common is going to have investigators look for the potential nexus between the school and or church with her. It -- this is just rare. I mean, it is -- you know the mass shooters tend to be male, almost in all instances of a certain age 20 older, 20-something- year-old woman, it's just -- it's just not a demographic we see. So, you are going to look more closely to a type of connection or motive that might begin to explain this.

There's also another variable that's different. To explain to viewers, these schools that are in churches are essentially open for a reason. It's because the church is open. Our religious facilities here in America, whether it's a synagogue or a mosque, or a church are open for reasons. Because we want people to come in and feel comfortable and welcome at our community -- at our places of faith. That is what this essentially was.

So, the fact that they did not have an armed personnel is not surprising to me because the church aspects of it tend to take over rather than the thinking of it, say, as a -- as a large high school, which we often do. I'll finally say that the lack -- the lack of -- the thing that we do know is that there was someone who was heavily armed viewed a school as an appropriate target. This is now a consistent story.

And the only variable is whether we are horrified because there's over 20 dead, or if we're just slightly horrified because, you know, there's -- I was about to say, fortunately, only six dead. This is where we are in terms of this dynamic in this country is that at some stage some number, then triggers are our horror. And then this now seems manageable in the way that we think about it. And that is -- that is because of our unwillingness to address the underlying commonalities of all these shootings, which is heavily armed people targeting our schools. This is solvable. We know how to solve it. We're just unwilling to do it. GOLODRYGA: And, Commissioner, in terms of response time, the police responded swiftly, especially given as we heard from Juliette, there was no police stationed at the school at this church. Police responded within just 14 minutes of that first call. So, given that and given what you just heard from Juliette, and what we heard from Andy McCabe in the last hour, do you agree that this is more of an issue for Congress to solve than law enforcement?

ED DAVIS, FORMER BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: Good afternoon, I agree completely with what Juliette had to say. It's really horrible to see an unspeakable tragedy like this occur, and people in political camps cannot move off their positions in light of children that have been massacred in our schools. It's just one of the great disappointments to me because Juliette and I work on these issues every week. And we can mitigate the heck out of a situation. We talked about trying to put things back together again or trying to prevent things by putting up better fences or better locks or having armed people in the -- in the school.


But the truth of the matter is, this is an access to weapons of military grade and there is no cover and concealment in a school. If someone has a weapon like that and they start firing it, the bullets go through walls and go through doors, and there's literally no place to hide. So, the solution to this is that -- is that keeping these weapons out of the hands of people who will do something like this.

SANCHEZ: Commissioner, staying with you. You mentioned the way that this shooter was armed, two assault-style rifles and a handgun. Does that speak to you of a high likelihood of premeditation here?

DAVIS: Yes, it does. First of all, just carrying that much equipment is not easy to do. You would -- it would require some planning, it would require the acquisition of not only weapons but also of specialized ammunition that fired -- that are fired out of these weapons, it would require some level of familiarity with the weapons. Those guns are not easy to shoot. So, there's something going on here.

And as Juliette said, the police will be drilling down into motivation. They're looking right now at cell phone communication, social media posts, they'll hit the house of the individual responsible for this, they'll get all of their electronic media and drill through that. And they'll come up with unexplainable motivation, as crazy as it is, for someone to have targeted this school. The tragedy is, we couldn't prevent it, that despite the fact that we can put the case together and have some kind of twisted logic to it, it is just beyond frustration that we can't save our children.

GOLODRYGA: It is horrifying. The richest country in the world, and this is a uniquely American crisis that we deal with time and again. Juliette, on that note, you know, active shooter drills have become the norm in this country for our students going back to Columbine in 1999. I'm just curious to get your perspective. How do you train students as young as four years old?


GOLODRYGA: I mean, I'm the mother of young children as well. How do you train students that young to prepare for situations like this?

KAYYEM: You can. I mean, it says essentially, they're just going to be following the teacher at the stage. So, this is not older teenage kids that you can say run or hide yourself. I mean high schools do have different dynamics because you have kids sort of you know, around at all times in different rooms, changing rooms.

K through six, they're in just that room. So, all you have is the lockdown capability and the teachers' quick' response. And so -- and of course, most teachers are trained in this. We will learn what happened in that regard. they -- you know, you count your blessings in this. If she was this heavily armed, a lot more damage could have been done. So, where -- did the lockdown features of keeping the kids for -- as protected as possible, our work because we learned that she was not in a that the shooter was not in a classroom. But you can train until you know -- you know, you can train as much as you want.

Once the school is penetrated by an active shooter unless luck and divine intervention get involved, you are going to have fatalities because the ability to get a target if a person is -- wants to do that, it's just too easy. It's just -- it's a soft target once you are inside the classroom. So, we can focus as much as we want on fortifying these schools. You know spend as much money as we want until we get to the moment where we under -- we control the ability to kill children this quickly, we will not solve this problem.

And I've gone this enough with you, Ed, has done this enough with you. In the days to come, we are surely going to learn that this shooter, people knew people were worried about her family members might have known this happens every single time. And so, intervening also having the community intervene in ways begins to make a lot of sense as well. So, the laws and the community both have to work together. We have -- we have yet to see one of these school shootings where in the days to come, Ed and I will be sitting here learning more about her intent.

SANCHEZ: Yes, sadly, too often in these cases, you hear about folks that bring up red flags --

KAYYEM: Oh, yes.

SANCHEZ: -- that there were whether on social media posts or things that the suspect may have said to them.


Commissioner, I wanted to get your thoughts on this. As we've been speaking, Nashville PD just put out a tweet confirming that it was two Metro Nashville Police Department officers who entered the building and went to the sound of gunfire, they engage the shooter on the second floor and fatally shot her in what a spokesperson for Metro PD described as a lobby area on that second floor.

Obviously, the response time here, within 15 minutes of the call coming in, officers entered and neutralized the shooter. A very different response to what we saw in say, Uvalde, obviously. Walk us through the protocols in place for officers responding to a scene like this, and how those have changed over time.

DAVIS: Well, ever since Columbine, the protocols changed. You know, our job used to be to get to the scene, secure the scene, try to evacuate as many people as possible, but then wait for the SWAT team to come in to deal with the suspect. After Columbine, we realized that people died because we follow that protocol. So, the protocol now is to go to contact.

And basically what that means is the first officers on the scene are supposed to run to the sound of gunfire. And when we take -- when we train these things with officers and with civilians, we tell the civilians that even if someone is injured or shot, the police are not going to stop to render aid. Their first responsibility is to get to the shooter. And so, it sounds like this happened.

I mean, ideally, this would be a five or six-minute response. But 15 minutes is certainly within the protocol of good solid police work. And you wait until you get one or two people with you. And then you literally do what the Marines described as charged the position.

Now, the unique thing about that is if a shooter has a rifle and you've got two officers who were the first ones on the scene with just sidearms, they are heavily outgunned in a situation like that. So, the courage that it takes to walk into that withering military fire is remarkable. And we don't know all the details here but I suspect the story will be compelling.

SANCHEZ: Yes, as you said, we don't know all the details, but at this moment, it appears that the brave work of those officers may have saved more loss of life. Commissioner Ed Davis and Juliet Kayyem, please stand by as we get more details on this breaking news.

If you were just joining us, three children and three adults killed after a shooting at a private school in Nashville. Kids as young as four years old attend this school. Stay with us. We have more details ahead.



SANCHEZ: Back to our breaking news out of Nashville, Tennessee where police say a 28-year-old woman from that area shot and killed three children and three adults at a private Elementary School.

GOLODRYGA: Let's bring in CNN's Jeremy Diamond. Jeremy, we're learning that President Biden has been briefed on this unfolding situation. We heard from First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden address this at an event in the last hour. How's the White House responding?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right. And the briefing by the White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also just wrapped up. And in her remarks, what you could hear was this clear sense of frustration that is reverberating inside the corridors of the West Wing right now with the inaction in Congress. And the fact that these shootings continue to happen, there's a clear sense of frustration about that. I want you to listen to the White House press secretary just moments ago.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So, we're seeing the heartbreaking news of another shooting of innocent schoolchildren, this time in Nashville, Tennessee. The president has been briefed on the situation and our team is in contact with DOJ and local officials about what is known so far. We want to express the president's appreciation for the first responders and prayers for all the families affected by this shooting.

While we don't know yet all the details in this latest tragic shooting, we know that too often our schools and communities are being devastated by gun violence. Schools should be safe spaces for our kids to grow and learn, and for our educators to teach.


DIAMOND: And she went on to say that the -- that we must do more. And she said that President Biden wants Congress to act because despite the fact that they -- she touted that President Biden has signed more executive actions on gun violence than any president in history, there is a clear acknowledgment by the White House that those actions simply aren't enough and that the true action needs to come from Congress. She talked about President Biden's calls for an assault weapons ban for closing background check loopholes.

And you know, when you look back at the fact that you saw the most significant bipartisan legislation in decades on gun violence during President Biden's term, even that piece of legislation really only looked to enhance background checks for 18 to 21-year-olds. It tried to incentivize red flag laws and provide hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding for mental health issues in school safety. And yet we see these shootings continue to happen. And so, what is shining through today is also the White House's willingness to immediately go after this issue and reiterate their calls for the kinds of legislation and the kinds of actions that they believe are needed to try and stem the tide of gun violence in this country.

Lastly, we also did hear briefly from the First Lady, Jill Biden, what she said was that she was, without words, she said our children deserve better. And she said that we all stand with Nashville in prayer. Now, moments from now, we are expecting to hear directly from President Biden. He is speaking at an unrelated event, but we are told that at the top of those remarks, he will address this latest school shooting.

SANCHEZ: As we take a live look now at the White House where President Biden is set to speak. We will bring you those remarks as soon as we get them. Jeremy Diamond, please stand by for an update after we hear from President Biden.