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Authorities release frantic 911 calls from Nashville school shooting: "Please hurry"

Nashville protesters demand gun reform
Protesters demand gun reform after Nashville school shooting 02:22

Callers pleaded for help and the sound of sirens, crying and gunfire could be heard in the background of 911 calls released Thursday and made during Monday's mass shooting in Nashville.

Police released recordings of multiple calls that were made during the attack at The Covenant School in which six people, including three children, were killed.

In one, a man tells the dispatcher he is with a group of people, including several children, who are walking away from the Christian school toward a main road. Although the man remains calm, the tension and confusion of the situation are clear, with several adults speaking over each other and children's voices in the background.

When the dispatcher requests a description of the shooter, the caller asks a second man to get on the line.

"All I saw was a man holding an assault rifle shooting through the door. It was — he's currently in the second-grade hallway, upstairs" the second man says, noting the assailant was dressed in camouflage and wearing a vest.

Asked about how many shots were fired, a woman responds, "I heard about 10 and I left the building."

Another caller told a dispatcher that she could hear gunshots as she hid in an art classroom closet.

"It sounds like somebody is shooting guns," the caller said in the recording, which started just before 10:13 a.m. She then noted that there had been a pause in the gunshots.

The dispatcher asked if she was in a safe spot and said two other callers had reported gunshots at the school.

"I think so," the caller said, as children could be heard in the background.

The teacher then said she could hear more gunshots, and muffled thuds can be heard on the recording.

"I'm hearing more shots," the caller said. "Please hurry."

Alexander Reddy, 17, kneels and prays at a cross after leaving flowers at an entry to Covenant School, March 28, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn.
Alexander Reddy, 17, kneels and prays at a cross after leaving flowers at an entry to Covenant School, March 28, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. AP Photo/John Amis

A third caller said he was in a room on the second floor and asked the dispatcher to send help.

"I think we have a shooter at our church," he said, later adding: "I'm on the second floor in a room. I think the shooter is on the second floor."

In a nearly 17-minute recording released Thursday evening, one caller can be heard directing somebody to "stay down underneath the sink in the bathroom," and as shots were fired, the caller told dispatchers the shooter walked by his office. Throughout the recording, the caller can be heard relaying 911 guidance to others. The recording ends abruptly as the caller tells responding officers about his wife's whereabouts in the building.

In other recordings, callers can be heard whispering amongst crying children.

Officers took down the assailant within 14 minutes of receiving the report of the school shooting, according to Nashville Mayor John Cooper. "Many lives" were saved by the quick response, he said on "CBS Mornings."

Three adults and three 9-year-old children were killed in the attack. Authorities say police shot and killed the assailant, a former student they identified as 28-year-old Audrey Hale.

The release of the recordings came as people protested at the Tennessee Capitol in favor of tighter gun controls, haranguing the Republican-led Legislature to take action following the school shooting.

Chants of "Save our children!" echoed noisily in the hallways between the state Senate and House chambers, with protesters setting up shop inside and outside the Capitol. Some silently filled the Senate chamber's gallery, including children who held signs reading "I'm nine" - a reference to the age of the kids who died. Most protesters were removed from the gallery after some began yelling down at the lawmakers, "Children are dead!"

The protests followed a Wednesday night candlelight vigil in Nashville where Republican lawmakers stood alongside first lady Jill Biden, Democratic lawmakers and musicians including Sheryl Crow, who has called for stricter gun controls since the attack.

The vigil was somber and at times tearful, as speaker after speaker read the victims' names and offered condolences to their loved ones but refrained from any statement that could be seen as political.

"Just two days ago was our city's worst day," Cooper said. "I so wish we weren't here, but we need to be here."

Police have said the shooter drove up to the school on Monday morning, shot out the glass doors, entered and began firing indiscriminately. Police later fatally shot the shooter.

Among those killed were the three students, Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney; Katherine Koonce, 60, the head of the school; substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61; and Mike Hill, a 61-year-old custodian.

Absent from the Wednesday vigil was Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee, who has been an advocate for less restrictive gun laws along with greater school security and once intimated that prayer could protect Tennessee from school shootings and other things.

Lee issued a video statement Tuesday saying that Peak was a close friend of his wife, Maria, and that the two had been planning to meet for dinner on Monday.

"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."

Lee has avoided public appearances this week and has not proposed any possible steps his administration might take in response to the school shooting.

As with similar responses to gun violence, the state's Republican leaders have avoided calling for tighter gun restrictions and instead have thrown their support behind adding more school security measures.

In a letter to Lee, Republican Lt. Gov. Randy McNally called for securing windows and glass in school buildings, adding magnetic locks on doors, modernizing camera systems, and increasing armed guards.

"While these changes would come with a cost, I believe it is important for us to have a conversation about how to increase and modernize security at schools in Tennessee," McNally wrote.

Along with improving school safety measures, McNally told reporters Thursday that he is in favor of red flag laws like one in Florida.

Meanwhile, Tennessee's U.S. senators, Republicans Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty, were pushing for legislation that would create a $900 million grant program to "harden" schools and hire safety officers.

Blackburn and Hagerty said Thursday that they would introduce the SAFE School Act, which would help public and private schools train military veterans and former law enforcement officers to provide security. They said the grants could also be used to bolster physical security measures. Blackburn introduced similar legislation in the last Congress, but it failed to gain support.

Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake has not said what police think the shooter's motive was, only noting that the assailant didn't target specific victims and had "some resentment for having to go to that school."

Firearms recently became the number one cause of death for children and teens in the United States, surpassing motor vehicle deaths and those caused by other injuries, according to an analysis by KFF, a not-for-profit providing health policy analysis and journalism. 

Since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, 175 people have died in 15 mass shootings events connected to U.S. schools and colleges, according to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University.

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