First lady, Sheryl Crow expected at Nashville shooting vigil
First lady Jill Biden and Sheryl Crow were among those expected to attend a candlelight vigil Wednesday in memory of the three children and three adults killed in a shooting at a private Christian school in Nashville.
Crow was scheduled to perform, along with fellow musicians Margo Price and Ketch Secor, the Nashville mayor’s office said in a news release.
The lineup also listed civic leaders, including Mayor John Cooper and Police Chief John Drake.
Cooper said the vigil would "honor the lives of the victims and lift up the survivors and families" of the Covenant School.
Earlier in the day, Pope Francis sent his condolences to the city and offered prayers to those affected by the violence. In a telegram, Francis asked Nashville Bishop J. Mark Spalding to convey the assurance of his prayers.
Police have said a 28-year-old former student drove up to the school Monday morning, shot out the glass doors and gunned down three 9-year-olds, a custodian, a substitute teacher and the head of the school.
Authorities have not yet determined the shooter's motive but said the assailant <a href="https://apnews.com/article/nashville-school-shooting-covenant-school-03aa394109a5e682877403c0c3e52aa7">did not target specific victims</a>.
The dead children were identified as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney. The adults killed were Katherine Koonce, 60, the head of the school; substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61; and custodian Mike Hill, also 61.
Among the featured performers at the vigil, Price has been particularly vocal about Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s position on <a href="https://apnews.com/6192267a5ef5791416adda36667d287b">state gun laws</a>, having tweeted in response to shooting: "Our children are dying and being shot in school but you’re more worried about drag queens than smart gun laws? You have blood on your hands."
Lee said late Tuesday that Peak was a close friend of his wife, Maria, and that the two had been planning to meet for dinner after Peak’s work that day.
"Maria woke up this morning without one of her best friends," Lee said in a video statement, adding that his wife once taught with Peak and Koonce. The women, he said, "have been family friends for decades."
The shooting led to an outpouring of prayers and support.
"As pundits and politicians try to make sense out of the senseless, we’re not really asking why. We know why - we live in a broken, fallen world," said Pastor George Grant, a leader with the Nashville Presbytery. The church linked to the school is a member of the presbytery, which includes congregations in middle Tennessee and southwestern Kentucky.
In a <a href="https://gospelreformation.net/light-to-dispel-darkness/">blog post</a> published Wednesday, Grant recounted how notifications about an active shooter at the school interrupted a presbytery planning meeting that included Chad Scruggs, Covenant Presbyterian Church pastor and father of one of the shooting victims.
"We emptied into the hallway, stricken, eyes clouded with unbelief, horror and grief. ... Our worst fears were realized," Grant wrote.
Police said the shooter, whom they identified as Audrey Hale, was under a doctor’s care for an undisclosed emotional disorder and was not on the radar of police before the attack.
Police have given unclear information on Hale’s gender.
For hours Monday, police identified the shooter as a woman. Later in the day, the police chief said Hale was transgender. In an email Tuesday, a police spokesperson said Hale "was assigned female at birth" but used masculine pronouns on a social media profile.
Maria Colomy, a former teacher at the Nossi College of Art & Design in Nashville, recalled Hale as a talented artist while a student in Colomy’s social media class in 2017. Colomy remembered Hale "going above and beyond" on projects and being "one of the students I expected to have a job right away."
She said she saw postings on Facebook during the past year in which Hale wrote about the death of a romantic partner and asked to be called by a male name and male pronouns.
Hale had "been very publicly grieving" on Facebook, Colomy said. "It was during that grief (Hale) said, ’In this person’s honor, I am going to be the person who I want to be, and I want to be called Aiden.'"
On Hale’s first day at the Nossi School, Colomy said she saw Hale become frustrated while trying to log into the student portal and start to cry.
"I went up to (Hale) and said, ‘Hey, if you need to step out, it’s totally OK,'" Colomy said. But after that, Colomy said Hale began to feel safe at school and "really started thriving."
In other developments Wednesday, Nashville city officials declined to immediately release the 911 calls related to the shooting because of the ongoing investigation.