Tragedy at Covenant School in Tennessee Marks 130th Mass Shooting in 2023


Tennessee Capitol Building as viewed from Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in Downtown Nashville. PHOTO//Brandon Hooper on UnSplash

Hannah Osborne, Editor-in-Chief

Protests erupted Thursday, Mar. 30 at the Tennessee capitol in response to a gunman entering Covenant School in Nashville Monday, Mar. 27, claiming 6 lives. More than one thousand showed up Thursday morning, many of them high schoolers, demanding action be taken on gun reform to prevent more gruesome tragedies from taking place. These events unfolded as state lawmakers entered the house chamber to begin floor sessions.

3 students and 3 staff members lost their lives to the senseless violence, Evelyn Dieckhaus (9), Hallie Scruggs (9), William Kinney (9), Cynthia Peak (61), Katherine Koonce (60) and Mike Hill (61).

More than $200 thousand were raised through a GoFundMe organized by family friends of William Kinney for “Aid and Support for the family of Will Kinney.” The GoFundMe remembers Kinney for his “unflappable spirit.”

“He was unfailingly kind, gentle when the situation called for it, quick to laugh and always inclusive of others,” Rachael Freitas writes. “Sweet Will knew no strangers, and our hearts our broken for his family as they try to find their way forward.”

Freitas previously made the GoFundMe private due to media hounding the grieving family. While the GoFundMe has since reopened for donations, Freitas urges the media to allow the family to grieve in private.

Evelyn Dieckhaus is survived by her mother and father, Mike and Katy, and her older sister, Eleanor. The family organized the “Evelyn Dieckhaus Shining Light Fund,” in her memory, organized “to shine a light on the causes that were closest to Evelyn’s heart.”

“Evelyn loved her family more than anything but she also loved her school, arts & crafts, animals and helping those with special needs,” the family writes.

Hallie Scruggs is the daughter of Jada and Chad Scruggs; her father serves as the senior pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church. Hallie is the youngest of four, survived by three older brothers.

Katherine Koonce was the head of Covenant School and according to police reports likely made an attempt to confront the shooter. Koonce is remembered fondly for her dedication to the lives and success of her students.

Cindy Peak was a substitute teacher and is remembered for her love and devotion to her faith and to her family. She is survived by her husband Chris Peak, and their three children, Drew, Ellie and Matthew Peak.

Mike Hill was the long-time custodian of Covenant School, employed for over ten years. The GoFundMe “Mike Hill, Custodian at Covenant School Nashville” was organized to raise $25 thousand for funeral expenses. In total, almost $600 thousand has been raised for the family of Hill, who is survived by eight children and fourteen grandchildren.

The GoFundMe remembers “Big Mike’s” dedication to his job writing, “He always went above and beyond whenever he could. His life may not always have been easy, but he lived to serve and that he did until his very last day.”

The shooter has been identified as a former student of Covenant School and was killed after encountering police in the school. The shooter was reported as Audrey Hale, a transgender male identified by his birth name and gender by police.

The events elicited numerous responses varying from attacks on the transgender community to demands for gun reform.

Gun violence has been determined as the leading cause of death in children and adolescents. On Thursday, Tennesseans made their discontent with gun regulations clear when they approached the capitol to demand reform. On the house floor Rep. Justin Pearson (D) of Memphis and Rep. Justin Jones (D) of Nashville, joined by Rep. Gloria Johnson (D) of Memphis, led the chants of “gun reform now” within the house while leadership engaged in discussions in the dais.

Reactions online indicated that some believe the shooter’s identity directly correlated to their actions. User Benny Johnson tweeted a list of former mass shootings carried out by non-cis persons followed by “One thing is VERY clear: the modern trans movement is radicalizing activists into terrorists.”

This Tweet garnered extra attention when the owner of Twitter, Elon Musk, responded, “!”

Despite the tragic events being taken as an opportunity to attack LGBTQ+ community members, an AP report disproves these claims stating that while exact data is difficult to isolate, “…experts agree that the most reputable information still shows a clear pattern that cisgender males are the most likely to commit such an act of mass violence.”

The shooting at Covenant School was the 130th mass shooting in the United States in 2023 according to Gun Violence Archive.