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March 29, 2023 - Nashville elementary school shooting
By Aditi Sangal, Elise Hammond and Tori B. Powell, CNN
Here's how the police response differed between the Uvalde and Nashville school shootings
From CNN's Shimon Prokupecz and Rachel Clarke
Two active shooters in two elementary schools, both armed with assault rifles and both ready to kill. Police in both Uvalde, Texas, last May and Nashville just this week rushed to answer 911 calls of gunfire.
But while the Nashville shooter was stopped within minutes, with six innocents killed, it took well over an hour for the Uvalde siege to end. Nineteen children and two teachers died in Uvalde, though at least three of the victims had survived the initial gunfire.
Here are the key differences, and some similarities, reported from a CNN analysis of body camera footage from both instances and interviews given to investigators after the Uvalde massacre that have been obtained by CNN:
Entering the school. In Uvalde, Robb Elementary comprised separate buildings connected by breezeways. Officers coming from different directions could hear gunfire and used that to identify the right location, entering the westernmost building where the gunman was. They then tried to direct each other via radios.
In Nashville, a woman who appears to be a Covenant School staffer meets one of the first responders, Officer Rex Engelbert, and tells him: “The kids are all locked down. We have two kids that we don’t know where they are.” Engelbert is handed a key, opens the locked entry door, and with other officers already arriving, calls out to form a team.
Searching for the shooter. Sirens were blaring and emergency lights flashing as officers from the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department entered the Covenant School building. With no initial sound of gunfire, they started to search room by room.
It’s a marked difference from Uvalde: After being shot at through the door at 11:37 a.m., the officers in Uvalde retreated. One began to head back toward the key classrooms – 111 and 112 – but no one followed him. It appears that no one got close to the classroom doors again until 12:50 p.m. when a team led by Border Patrol agents burst in and killed the gunman. There was a forward surge after shots were fired in the classroom at 12:21 p.m., but no one went in. And with no effective communication with each other or school administrators, there was confusion about whether children and teachers were trapped.
Firepower. In Uvalde, responding officers realized the shooter had a high-powered assault rifle, given the bullet casings they saw and by how the shots were piercing sheetrock. That seemed to have cowed then-school district police chief Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, who called the city police dispatcher and said: “He has an AR-15. He shot a whole bunch of times … He’s in one room. I need a lot of firepower, I need this building surrounded, surrounded with as many AR-15s as possible.”
Christian music star Steven Curtis Chapman remembers Katherine Koonce as an "amazing person"
Christian music singer, Steven Curtis Chapman, on Wednesday remembered the head of Covenant School Katherine Koonce as an "amazing person."
Koonce, who was killed along with five others at the Nashville Christian school on Monday, "marked our family so significantly," he told CNN's Anderson Cooper, noting an "amazing relationship" that she had with his children.
Chapman said the role Koonce played in his son Will's life grew to "be so much more" after the tragic death of his youngest daughter.
In 2008, Chapman's 5-year-old daughter, Maria, was accidentally and fatally struck in the family's driveway by one of her brothers who was returning home in his truck.
The singer said his son Will, in particular, "was carrying a very, very heavy weight" following the incident, and that Koonce remained an important figure in his life. His son Caleb described her as "mentor, friend, confidant," Chapman said.
"I mean she was all of those things and [a] teacher of so much more than what they learn in books," Chapman said. "It's not an overstatement. We would have said this a week ago. We would have said it a month ago. We did say it all the time. Even before this terrible incident and this devastating thing that's happened – we would say Katherine Koonce is one of the people who helped save our son's life through walking with him, just caring for him."
Although Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake has said he can't confirm how Koonce died, he did say it is possible that she was in the hallway by herself and that there was a confrontation. A Nashville city councilman said a witness told him Koonce spent her last moments trying to protect the children in her care.
Chapman said that detail doesn't surprise him.
"I know her well enough to know she probably was doing everything she could to change the story, to stop this thing from happening, to talk to this person," he said.
Teachers' locking down classrooms saved lives, says expert who conducted active shooter drills at school
From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury
Brink Fidler, an ex-police officer who conducted active shooting drills through his company, Defend Systems, at Covenant School in Nashville, said that the teachers who followed the training saved lives.
"People are talking about the training we did with them. And, yes, training is important. But I wasn't here on Monday. They were here, right? Their ability to execute literally flawlessly under that amount of stress while somebody trying to murder them and their children, that is what made the difference here," Fidler told CNN's Erin Burnett on Wednesday. "These teachers are the reason those kids went home to their families,"
Fidler noted that those who were killed were stuck in some sort of open area or hallway, while everyone else was either able to lockdown or evacuate.
Fidler knew several of the victims, including 9-year-old William Kinney, head of the school Katherine Koonce and custodian Mike Hill.
Fidler said that Koonce was vigilant in obtaining active shooter training for the school.
"She understood the severity of the topic. And the severity of the teachers needing to have the knowledge of what to do in that situation. So, she actually did her due diligence so much that she came and sat in on our training at another school first to make sure it was what she wanted for her staff. And then we worked very closely together to customize that training program for this location," he said.
Vigil ends with a prayer and singing of "Amazing Grace"
From CNN’s Jamiel Lynch
The vigil for the six victims of Monday’s shooting in Nashville ended with a prayer from Tennessee State Rep. Rev. Harold M. Love, Jr.
“God, we come a this most difficult moment for these families and our city. Violence has visited our city and brought heartache and pain. In the midst of sorrow, we are yet looking for hope. We know that our words cannot comfort the way that you can comfort. And so it is at this most critical moment that we need your love, your grace and your strength. Love to bring healing. Grace to bring compassion and strength to bring change so that this never happens again," he said.
He called on the crowd to never forget the names of those killed as he named them one by one.
At the close of the prayer, the crowd sang "Amazing Grace."
Nashville officers trained for a school shooting — but hoped it would never happen, chief says
Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said a school shooting, like the one that killed six people at the Covenant School Monday, is a moment officers have trained for but hoped would never happen.
"Our police officers have cried, and are crying, with Nashville and the world," Drake said.
He said he is thankful for the Metro Nashville Police Department officers who went into the building without hesitation and for firefighters and other first responders who provided emergency care.
"Nashville comes together like no other place to comfort those who have suffered an unspeakable loss. We also comfort each other as we try to emotionally cope with this horrific crime that occurred Monday," Drake said at a citywide vigil.
Singers Sheryl Crow and Margo Price perform at vigil
Singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow performed her song "I Shall Believe" at tonight's vigil held in Nashville, Tennessee.
Singer Margo Price later performed an acapella rendition of Bob Dylan's song, "Tears of Rage."
"We can only get through this tragedy together": Mayor thanks community for honoring shooting victims
Mayor John Cooper thanked the Nashville community for coming to a candlelight vigil to honor the six people killed in an elementary school shooting Monday, saying people need to lean on each other to get through the tragedy.
"When words just can't carry the weight of what is in our hearts, we must reach out to each other to help each other carry the load," Cooper said. "To think of all the hugs they would have had and all the hugs we can still give each other."
He said the day of the shooting at Covenant School was the city's worst day.
The candlelight vigil Wednesday night is an opportunity for people to be together as a community, Cooper said, thanking faith leaders, artists and first lady Jill Biden for being in attendance.
The mayor read out the names of the victims and acknowledged some of their families in the audience. He said no one should be afraid to ask for help and pointed to resources available, from grief counselors to ministers.
Cooper asked people in the crowd to reach out and touch someone's shoulder "and be there for one another because we can only get through this tragedy together."
Community leaders stood on the steps of One Public Square park in Nashville with candles in their hands. People filled in the park below them.
Victim Mike Hill’s 7 children attend vigil in Nashville
The seven children of shooting victim Mike Hill attended tonight's vigil in Nashville, Mayor John Cooper said.
Hill, 61, was a beloved custodian at the Covenant School.
Known as “Big Mike” to students, Hill was a member of the facilities/kitchen staff, according to the school website.