NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) -A 28-year-old woman armed with several guns opened fire on Monday at a private Christian school she once attended in Tennessee’s capital city, killing three children and three adult staffers before police killed her, authorities said.
There was no immediate official word on a possible motive for the gun violence, which unfolded on a warm spring morning not long after classes began at The Convent School, whose students consist mostly of elementary school-age children.
The woman was carrying at least two semi-automatic rifles and a handgun, police said.
The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department began receiving calls at 10:13 a.m. of a shooter at the school, and arriving officers reported hearing gunfire coming from the building’s second floor, police spokesperson Don Aaron told reporters.
Two officers from a five-member team shot the assailant in a lobby area, and she was pronounced dead by 10:27 a.m..
“The police department response was swift,” Aaron said. Police Chief John Drake later described the suspect as a 28-year-old woman from the Nashville area who “at one point was a student at this school.” But her identity was not immediately made public.
Deadly mass shootings have become commonplace in the United States in recent years, but a female attacker is highly unusual. Only four of 191 mass shootings cataloged since 1966 by The Violence Project, a nonprofit research center, were carried out by a female attacker.
Reacting to the shooting in Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden urged Congress again to pass more gun reform legislation.
“It’s sick,” he said, addressing the issue during an event at the White House. “We have to do more to protect our schools so they aren’t turned into prisons … I call on Congress again to pass my assault weapons ban.”
Three students were pronounced dead after arriving at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt with gunshot wounds, John Howser, a hospital spokesperson, said in a statement. Three adult staff members were killed by the shooter, police said.
Besides the deceased, no one else was shot, Aaron said.
Students’ parents were told to gather at the nearby Woodmont Baptist Church to be reunited with their children. Parents trickled out of the building with their youngsters in tow. One woman was visibly distraught as she was escorted alone out of the church to an awaiting squad car by police officers.
The Covenant School, founded in 2001, is a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church in the Green Hills neighborhood of Nashville with about 200 students, according to the school’s website. The school serves preschool through sixth graders and held an active shooter training program in 2022, WTVF-TV reported.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper expressed sympathy for the victims and wrote on social media that his city “joined the dreaded, long list of communities to experience a school shooting.”
There have been 89 school shootings – defined as anytime a gun is discharged on school property – in the U.S. so far in 2023, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database, a website founded by researcher David Riedman. Last year saw 303 such incidents, the highest of any year in the database, which goes back to 1970.
(Reporting by Kevin Wurm in Nashville; Additional reporting by Kanishka Singh, Tyler Clifford, Rich McKay, Brad Brooks, Joseph Ax and Brendan O’Brien; Writing by Jonathan Allen and Steve Gorman; Editing by Alistair Bell and Rosalba O’Brien)