First lady, Sheryl Crow expected at Nashville shooting vigil
By TRAVIS LOLLER and KIMBERLEE KRUESI
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – A candlelight vigil Wednesday evening in Nashville will feature first lady Jill Biden, Sheryl Crow and other luminaries as the city grieves the three children and three adults killed in a shooting at a private Christian school.
Biden will “join a candlelight vigil to honor and mourn the lives of the victims of The Covenant School shooting,” her spokesperson tweeted. Crow, along with fellow musicians Margo Price and Ketch Secor, will perform, the Nashville mayor’s office said in a news release.
The lineup also includes civic leaders, including Mayor John Cooper and Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake.
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 Bishop J. Mark Spalding, of the Catholic Diocese of Nashville, to convey his “heartfelt condolences” and the assurance of his prayers.
“He joins the entire community in mourning the children and adults who died and commends them to the loving embrace of the Lord Jesus,” reads the telegram, which was sent by the Vatican’s secretary of state in the pontiff’s name.
Police have said a 28-year-old former student drove up to The Covenant School Monday morning, shot out 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 they did not target specific victims.
Cooper said in a news release that the citywide vigil was being planned for Wednesday evening “to mourn and honor the lives of the victims, and lift up the survivors and families” of the school.
Authorities have identified the dead children 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 Wednesday’s vigil, Price has been particularly vocal about Gov. Bill Lee’s position on state gun laws, having tweeted in response to news of the school 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 Tuesday, adding that his wife once taught with Peak and Koonce. The women, he said, “have been family friends for decades.”
The deadly shooting has led to an outpouring of prayers and support.
“There have been innumerable prayer meetings and crying out for comfort and solace,” said Pastor George Grant, a leader with the Nashville Presbytery, which is connected to the school.
“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.”
In a blog post 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. Then the chief later used feminine pronouns to refer to Hale.
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3/29/2023 1:14:54 PM (GMT -5:00)