A high school friend of the Nashville school shooter was shocked to learn the outgoing girl she ran track with was behind the massacre that left six dead at a Christian campus.
The friend, who requested to remain anonymous, described Audrey Hale, 28, to DailyMail.com as ‘sweet and funny’ hours after the suspect opened fire at The Covenant School, shooting and killing nine-year-old Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney on Monday.
Cops said Hale was transgender, although they haven’t specified further details. She was born female, but a LinkedIn profile believed to be hers uses he/him pronouns, suggesting Hale was living as a man.
The friend recalled her faint memories with Hale at the Nashville School of the Arts from around 2011 to 2014.
‘What she did was unforgivable but when I knew her she was a sweet and funny girl,’ the friend told DailyMail.com. ‘When she came out as trans (female to male) no one was surprised.’
‘She really didn’t fit the school shooter archetype. I don’t know what would have happened to turn her into this person we see on the news. Everyone in my graduating class is losing it on Facebook. Really none would have seen this coming.’
Audrey Hale receiving a certificate at Nossi College of Art in Nashville
Audrey Hale in her LinkedIn profile picture: Hale describes herself as an illustrator and graphic designer
The friend referred to Hale as ‘her’ because she knew the suspect as a female before the 28-year-old transitioned after graduation.
‘We went to Nashville School of the Arts in high school, where we had several trans students and others who were a part of the LGBTQ community,’ the friend said. ‘We were both in Visual Arts classes together and she was very involved with the school and had several friends.’
Along with participating in the same clubs, the friend also knew Hale as a team player.
‘We ran track together as well for [Martin Luther King Jr. School] (a sister magnet school) and she was a great part of the team,’ the friend said.
The friend added: ‘I’d never defend anyone that would hurt a child. But really it’s still really hard to believe that she did this. I thought for sure it was a mistake at first. The whole situation is so surreal.
‘She really did have a good group of friends and she did a lot of projects and school activities. Not at all what you would expect from someone in this kind of news headline.’
DailyMail.com obtained messages from the Nashville School of Arts alumni page where several former classmates of Hale were in disbelief.
‘This is crazy y’all,’ one person wrote. ‘I’m sure all of us could say the Audrey we knew back in high school was so opposite from who they were this morning.
‘Its tough enough to grasp if we even knew Audrey, you know? I know this is a shock to the NSA fam. My heart breaks for those sweet families who lost loved ones this morning.’
Another alumni added: ‘JESUS!!’
Hale went into The Covenant School around 10.13am, opened fire and was killed by police less than 15 minutes later.
Aside from the three students, all aged nine, pronounced dead, Hale also killed substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61, head of school Katherine Koonce, 60, and custodian Mike Hill, 61.
The suspect drove to school in a Honda Fit, which was discovered in the Covenant Church/school campus early Monday. Nashville police said it helped identify her.
‘MNPD detectives searched it and found additional material written by Hale,’ police said.
It’s unclear what Hale’s motive was, but police believe she attended the school at some point. She had detailed, drawn maps of the school and had been surveilling it, according to police.
Police said Hale left behind a manifesto they believe will give them a motive into the massacre, the 129th in the United States in 2023.
‘We have a manifesto, we have some writings that we’re going over that pertain to this day,’ Nashville Police Chief John Drake said. ‘We have a map drawn out of how this was all gonna to take place. There’s right now a theory that we may put out later but it’s not confirmed. We’ll put that out as soon as we can.’
Audrey Hale’s Honda Fit which she parked at The Covenant School campus before opening fire inside the school
A child weeps while on the bus leaving The Covenant School, following a mass shooting at the school in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. March 27, 2023
Children from The Covenant School hold hands as they are taken to a reunification site at the Woodmont Baptist Church after a shooting at their school, on Monday March, 27, 2023
Drake said that Hale mentioned another location in her manifesto, but decided that there was too much security to launch an attack.
According to the chief, Hale and no criminal history and said he did not know of any history of mental illness, though investigators were still looking into that.
The small school is run by a church and does not employ a school resource officer.
Hale styled herself as an illustrator, drawing under the name Aiden. She received an education from Nossi College of Art in Nashville for digital art and design.
Her work included renderings of Sponge Bob Squarepants, a Keith Haring tribute, and a drawing of Jack Nicholson in the film The Shining, with his infamous quote: ‘Here’s Johnny!’
Photos of Audrey receiving an award in spring 2017 at Nossi has since surfaced.
Audrey – who drew under the male name Aiden – was an illustrator and graphic designer
Hale styled herself as an illustrator, drawing under the name Aiden. Pictured: Two of Hale’s artworks