Former Nashville Police Officer Weighs In on Covenant School Shooting

Former Nashville Police Officer Weighs In on Covenant School Shooting
Law enforcement vehicles are parked at the entrance of The Covenant School in Nashville, Tenn., on March 28, 2023. (Seth Herald/Getty Images)

A former Nashville police officer shared his grief with the friends and family of those killed in a shooting at a private Christian elementary school in the city on Monday.

A shooter killed three children under the age of 10 and another three adults at The Covenant School. Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) officers rushed into the building and shot and killed the shooting suspect, who has been identified as Audrey Hale.

Nathan Clark, a retired MNPD officer and father of children in local private schools, said Monday’s shooting does not surprise him. Clark, who served on a negotiator team with MNPD, told NTD that “to me, unfortunately, on a daily basis, it was a constant preparation for these types of events.”

Clark said schools could benefit from added security measures but it’s hard to account for every variable in preventing mass shootings.

“We have a lot of private Christian schools that are in the area that do have retired law enforcement or security on their premises,” Clark said. “I would say the Metro Nashville Police Department has always been good over the years assessing threats, but, you know, the one big main thing that I would like to say is that in the realm of law enforcement, every variable cannot be accounted for.”

Hale, a woman who identified as a man, was being treated for an emotional disorder. Officials said they believe there may have been a link between Hale’s gender identity and the decision to attack the school but they are not certain how. Officials also said they discovered a manifesto they believe was written by the school shooter but have yet to publicly release the document.

“The randomness of it is the element that is just the biggest problem that law enforcement has,” Clark said. “We can account for these things happening. We can plan for them, we can do risk assessments. But as far as just narrowing down a date or time that they’re going to happen, it’s one of those where you just wish that it doesn’t happen and pray that it doesn’t happen on a daily basis.

Underlying Issues, Solutions

Political leaders have offered a number of legislative solutions in the aftermath of mass shootings in the United States.

Following Monday’s shooting, President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass a ban on “assault weapons.” Later that day, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “How many more children have to be murdered before Republicans in Congress will step up and act to pass the assault weapons ban; to close loopholes in our background check system; or to require the safe storage of guns?”

Republicans, conservatives, and gun-rights advocates have instead called for adding more armed security, such as more school resource officers or even armed school staff members.

It reportedly took MNPD officers 14 minutes to stop the shooting attack, and police spokesperson Don Aaron told CNN that there was no school resource officer assigned by the city to protect the private Christian school.

During a Monday press conference, MNPD Chief John Drake said that investigators determined the shooting suspect had considered a different target to attack “but because of threat assessment by the suspect, too much security, they decided not to.” The National Rifle Association emphasized Drake’s press statement, saying school security was a deterrent in this instance and should be a priority going forward.

Clark, who is a Christian, offered a different perspective on what’s contributing to crime and how it can be stopped: culture. Clark said the phrase “what would Jesus do?” was once ubiquitous and described a pattern of introspection that could dissuade some people from acting on violent or criminal motives.

“So I just really feel that if we got back into [asking] that, not that it’s going to stop every situation, but I really feel that it kind of put some things in perspective,” he said.

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