Mental health impacts on children who survive mass shootings

Seth Herald/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — As the United States reels from yet another mass school shooting, experts warn that young children are suffering from its devastating impacts.

A total of three children, all age nine — as well as three adults — were killed at the Covenant School in Nashville in what President Joe Biden referred to as “sick” and “heartbreaking.”

Children can respond in a wide range of ways including being numb to the event, being more angry or irritable, suffering from high anxiety and being fearful of going back to school, according to mental health experts.

“As a pediatrician, and as a father, I think it makes common sense that when kids are exposed to this sort of thing, that it would have potentially long-term consequences for them,” Dr. Marc Gorelick, president and CEO of Children’s Minnesota hospital, told ABC News.

He continued, “And the research actually bears that out, that there are, in fact, significant behavioral and psychological impacts on children who either are victims of or witness to or even around events, such as this shooting in Nashville.”

Doctors told ABC News what signs parents can look out for and how to best help their children cope.

Mental health impact of witnesses to a shooting

Dr. Daniel Marullo, a clinical psychologist from Children’s of Alabama Hospital, told ABC News that many children develop resilience, or an ability to overcome serious hardships.

However, he says gun violence can impact a child’s mental health, especially if they are witness to such an event.

“What would be considered a typical reaction could range everywhere from changes in mood, including being sad, angry, irritable, lowered frustration tolerance to having sleep problems,” he said. “Certainly, a child may be more prone to having some nightmares or scary dreams, you might see changes in appetite.”

Marullo said children who experience a traumatic even such as a shooting may have more trouble focusing and concentrating or are more easily distracted.

Experts said responses can depend on age, as well.

‘The impacts on them tend to fall into two categories,” Gorelick said. “Like older kids, they will often have symptoms of post-traumatic stress, that could be nightmares, sleep problems, avoiding certain locations, including avoiding school, because of the associated trauma.”

“Younger kids tend to have symptoms that reflect in things like withdrawal, depression, anxiety…in response to being a party to or witness to community violence, gun violence,” he added.

Wide scale of emotional response
Dr. Scott Krakower, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Northwell Health in New York, told ABC News that children can experience a wide range of emotions following a traumatic event.

Some children may be affected but may not show any emotion because they’re numbed or withdrawn after the event, he explained.

“Everybody’s different they might have more emotions, heightened levels of emotional states, avoidant behaviors, avoidance of the actual event itself, or memories related to the event, or going into even school itself, where they know that that’s the trigger of them,” Krakower said.

He continued, “Some of them probably have feelings of survivors’ guilt, like, what if they could have done things differently for themselves?”

Children impacted indirectly

The effects are not just on the children who attended a school where a shooting occurred, but those who live in the surrounding community or even in another state.

About four in 10 Americans believe they may become a victim of gun violence within the next five years, according to a UChicago Harris/AP-NORC Poll released in August 2022.

“One of the sad things, for kids, you don’t have to be that close to it to be affected by it and even just hearing about it on the news, knowing that it happened to kids like yourself, kids that you might know or kids in your community can have those same effects,” Gorelick said.

“What parents should be looking for in their children in the aftermath of event like this is showing signs of anxiety, showing signs of fears, showing signs of being worried about themselves because of what they saw or heard about,” he continued.

Resuming a normal routine

Experts say it’s important to make sure children are provided as much structure as possible after a traumatic event to help with their development and well-being.

Amidst the chaos that follows a shooting, routines either at school or home can help reassure children that they will be okay.

“One thing is to get back to normal, get back to routine,” Marullo said. “Getting back to that kind of structure is very important. That really provides a sense of security for kids.”

However, resuming routines doesn’t mean pretending the event didn’t happen, Marullo said, adding that adults should make sure children feel safe talking about their feelings.

“If a child brings up feeling scared, really validating that it’s okay to feel that way and helping them understand that they are safe, and here’s what we’re doing to help you out,” he said. “Just kind of recognize that this was scary, and you’ve got a right to be afraid, but giving them the tools to help them cope and manage.”

The experts say some children may benefit from at least brief therapy, either working with a psychologist or a counselor to process any feelings or fears they’re experiencing, even if they don’t develop a psychological disorder.

Help support adults’ needs

Experts say it’s important that adults take care of their own needs after a traumatic event because helping them will, in turn, help their child.

“If you want to help your child, you’ve got to help yourself,” Marullo said. “By an adult taking care of themselves, they are showing and demonstrating to their child or if they were a teacher to their class, how to cope and manage.”

He explained that because children look to adults for safety and security, how adults cope with a traumatic event will influence how children do the same,

“So, it’s not that you hide your emotions, but you manage your emotions, and it’s okay to say, ‘Look, I’m scared too, but this is what I’m going to do to feel better’ or ‘I’m upset, I’m angry, but here’s how I’m going to use my anger,'” Marullo said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Anti-transgender sentiment follows Nashville shooting

Metropolitan Nashville Police

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — After authorities said the Nashville school shooter identified as transgender, anti-trans sentiment about the community surged from far-right political figures.

Gun reform advocates and LGBTQ activists say the transgender community is being used as a “scapegoat” and that focusing on the shooter’s reported trans identity is a distraction from what they say is the root of the issue: guns.

“Despite what the gun industry and their political allies want, attempting to find a scapegoat isn’t going to take away from the fact that what is causing gun violence in America is our easy access to firearms,” said Kris Brown, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Advocates say transgender people have historically and falsely been categorized as violent or dangerous – perpetuating anti-transgender sentiment and further ostracizing a vulnerable and small population.

“Every study available shows that transgender and non-binary people are much more likely to be victims of violence, rather than the perpetrator of it,” the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement following the shooting.

“Regardless of the reason for this shooting, the use of violence is reprehensible and we renew our call for common-sense gun safety.”

Three students and three staff members were shot and killed at the Covenant School in Nashville on Monday morning. The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department identified the victims as Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9; Mike Hill, 61; William Kinney, 9; Katherine Koonce, 60; Cynthia Peak, 61; and Hallie Scruggs, 9.

Several conservative political figures, including Sen. J.D. Vance, Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, and Donald Trump Jr., were among the personalities on social media who implicated the role of the shooter’s transgender identity in the shooting. The motive for the shooting remains unknown, according to authorities.

Transgender people are more than four times more likely than cisgender people to experience violent victimization, according to a study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. Because of this, activists fear anti-trans sentiment will only lead to more violence against transgender people in a time when state legislators across the country have been targeting this community through legislation, restricting access to gender-affirming care and spaces.

James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University, maintains a database on shootings dating back 17 years. He said he’s been studying the topic of shootings for 41 years, and defines a mass shooting as four or more killed in a single event, not including the shooter.

He says he has not seen another case of a mass shooter being transgender in that time. The overwhelming majority of mass shootings are committed by cisgender men.

“I’m not aware of other cases like that,” Fox said. “Unless it was not reported, I would have known about it.”

“When you talk about mass killing it’s even more of a male activity,” Fox told ABC News.

He told ABC News that, according to his database, there have only been four female mass shooters who have killed four or more people in a single event in the United States since 2006.

Anti-gun violence activists are instead turning their attention to the national debate around guns and gun violence.

“I am devastated and angry,” said former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in 2011 while meeting with constituents and now runs the gun violence prevention organization GIFFORDS.

“At least three innocent children and three adults lost their lives to another incident of senseless gun violence. Countless people, including young kids, will be left traumatized by this tragedy. No parent, student, or teacher should live in fear of a mass murder at school. Enough is enough. Our leaders need to act. We stand with the Nashville community and remain committed to fighting gun violence. We owe it to our children and future generations.”

ABC News reporter Bill Hutchinson contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Adnan Syed murder conviction reinstated by Maryland appeals court

ilbusca/Getty Images/STOCK

(BALTIMORE) — A Maryland appeals court on Tuesday reinstated Adnan Syed’s murder conviction after finding that a lower court violated the victim’s family the right to attend a hearing on vacating the conviction.

Syed, the subject of the “Serial” podcast, had his conviction tossed out by a circuit court and the Baltimore County state attorney’s office dropped charges before he was set free last fall.

Syed, who is now 41, had been serving a life sentence for the past 23 years — more than half his life — since his arrest in 1999.

He was just 17 when he was convicted of first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping and imprisonment of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, in 2000.

He has maintained his innocence and denied any involvement in Lee’s death.

An appellate court panel voted 2-1 to reinstate the conviction, according to a court filing.

“We vacate the circuit court’s order vacating Mr. Syed’s convictions, which results in the reinstatement of the original convictions and sentence,” the court filing said. “We remand for a new, legally compliant, and transparent hearing on the motion to vacate, where Mr. Lee is given notice of the hearing that is sufficient to allow him to attend in person, evidence supporting the motion to vacate is presented, and the court states its reasons in support of its decision.”

Judge Michelle Phinn ordered Syed’s release in October 2022, asking for his shackles to be removed after listening to the state and the defense make arguments.

She said that “in the interests of fairness and justice,” Syed should be released on his own recognizance after finding that prosecutors failed to turn over evidence that could have helped his trial in 2000 and after new evidence was discovered that could have affected the outcome of his case.

The appellate court said “the circuit court violated Mr. Lee’s right to notice of, and his right to attend, the hearing on the State’s motion to vacate.”

A spokesperson for the state attorney said in a statement the office is “conducting a review of the decision.” The office did not answer whether Syed has to return to prison.

“We must allow the appeals process to play itself out, Mr. Syed and his legal team may file for an appeal to the Maryland Supreme Court, and we must respect their rights to do so until those rights are either heard or that request is denied; we are in a holding pattern. Any further comment would be premature at this time,” said spokesman James E. Bentley II.

A lawyer for Syed did not return an ABC News request for comment.

ABC News’ Quinn Owen contributed to this report.

1291s22 by ABC News Politics

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Nashville school shooting puts renewed focus on doors, security

Metropolitan Nashville Police Dept.

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Security video from inside Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, captured the suspect entering the main school building unabated by blasting through two sets of glass double doors and stalking the halls before killing six people, including three children.

The security footage, released by police Monday night, raises new concerns over whether schools should have fortified or metal entrance doors that could have deterred or delayed the suspect’s entry. In the wake of recent school shootings, access to campuses and the role entrance doors played in the massacres have often come into question.

Nashville police said officers arrived at Covenant School and killed the suspect 14 minutes after getting the first 911 calls. The suspect, identified as 28-year-old Audrey Hale, was fatally shot by police officers on the second floor of the building, next to a broken window where the suspect allegedly fired at the patrol cars as they arrived at the scene.

The security video from Covenant School, a preschool to sixth-grade institution run by the Presbyterian church, begins by showing the suspect driving into the campus parking lot. Other video clips released by authorities captured the suspect firing several times at the glass doors on the side of the building.

The footage showed gunshots from one of two assault-type weapons the suspect was armed with easily shattering both double glass doors with a single shot.

The suspect is then seen entering the school building through the shattered doors, the footage shows. The suspect was wearing a red ball cap turned backward, camouflage pants, sneakers, black gloves and wielding two assault-type rifles, one being held and the other slung over a shoulder.

Other security video clips showed the suspect walking by the church office before circling back and entering the apparently empty office through an unlocked door before emerging, pointing the barrel of a gun down the hallway and then going through a set of unlocked double doors.

More surveillance video showed the suspect walking down an empty hallway holding a rifle with two hands and briefly glancing at an area with a sign reading “Children’s ministry” and continuing down the hall.

Brink Fiddler, president of Defend System, an active shooter training company that performed drills with staff at Covenant School last year, told ABC News his team reviewed entrances and exits of the school with staff and administrators, going over floor plans, building materials and the surrounding neighborhood to determine “what choices are better than others.”

Fiddler said most schools his company is hired to do active shooter drills are “all unique.”

He noted that a lot of schools and businesses have glass doors like Covenant School.

“We know that the shooter was able to breach that door via shooting through glass, which is, tragically, the same thing that happened at Sandy Hook,” Fiddler said, referring to the 2012 mass shooting at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 26 people dead, including 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7.

He said the teachers and staff at the Covenant School appeared to follow their active shooter training.

“We take them through a very specific set of steps, depending on where the threat is, on when it’s best to evade and leave the building, or best to lock down and shelter in place,” Fiddler said. “From what I’ve been told, both of those things occurred based on where students and teachers were in relation to the threat.”

Police body camera footage released Tuesday, showed the first officer arriving at the school and being met outside by a school staff member who informed the officer, “The kids are all locked down, but we have two kids that we don’t know where they are.” The staffer also told the officer the location of where gunshots were heard inside the building and that “upstairs are a bunch of kids.”

The body camera video showed police searching classroom to classroom before going up to the second floor where officers fatally shot the suspect.

In recent school mass shootings, unlocked or unfortified doors have been a recurring problem.

Limiting entry points to school buildings, reinforcing main entrances and locking classroom doors have been among measures adopted by schools as part of safety measures taken in the years since the Columbine High School mass shooting in 1999.

During a shooting last month at Michigan State University, in which three students were killed and five were injured, the gunman entered the MSU Union building, home to a food court, through an unlocked door.

In the May 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 students and two teachers were killed, the suspect entered the school through a door that failed to latch when a teacher attempted to close it.

In the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 students and staff were killed, the gates and doors the gunman entered were left “unlocked, open and unattended,” according to a 2019 report from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission.

But Brad Garrett — a retired FBI agent and an ABC News contributor, who has done security audits on schools — said fortifying entrance doors with material like bulletproof glass, is cost prohibitive for most schools, especially a small Christian school like Covenant. He said metal doors are a cheaper option, but they make schools feel dark and “prison-like.”

“The reality is that mass shooters are going to take enough time to figure out how to get in,” said Garrett, noting that police found maps and drawings of the school on the suspect.

Despite all of the precautions taken to prevent a school mass shooting, they are still bound to occur, Fiddler said.

“There’s 8 million solutions out there that people think will work,” Fiddler said. “I live in a realistic world. We’re never going to stop all these. But I focus on if we can mitigate 90% of the damage or more during these events. Why would we not focus on that piece? And the mitigation comes back to the training from people knowing what to do.”

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

10 deadliest US shootings of past decade all involved legally purchased guns

Metro Nashville Police Department

(NEW YORK) — A suspect armed with multiple legally purchased firearms killed three children and three adults at a Tennessee school Monday, authorities said.

The tragic incident marked yet another mass shooting in the United States where the suspected shooter legally bought firearms used in the attack and has sparked renewed calls for gun reform.

The suspect, identified by police as 28-year-old Audrey Hale, was shot and killed by police responding to The Covenant School, a private Christian school in Nashville. Hale had purchased seven firearms from five local gun stores legally, three of which were used in the shooting, Nashville Police Chief John Drake said Tuesday.

“What we need from congressional Republicans is courage,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told ABC News’ “GMA3” on Tuesday. “What do you say to those parents? What do you say to those families? You can’t say to them, ‘There’s nothing else that can be done.’ That’s not what their job is as legislators.”

The weapons used in all 10 of the deadliest mass shootings of the past decade in the U.S. were purchased legally, based on an ABC News analysis.

1. Oct. 1, 2017: Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada
60 deaths

Fifty-eight people were killed and hundreds injured after a gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, targeting concertgoers below at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival. Two victims additionally succumbed to injuries in the years following the massacre.

The shooter, Stephen Paddock — who had 23 guns, including high-powered rifles, on hand — killed himself in his hotel suite, authorities said. Multiple loaded high-capacity magazines and a modified bump stock rifle, which allows a gun to simulate rapid automatic gunfire, were discovered in the room, law enforcement sources said at the time. Authorities said that Paddock had been stockpiling firearms since 1982 and bought nearly 50 guns legally.

2. June 12, 2016: Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida
49 deaths

A gunman opened fire inside the crowded nightclub at around 2 a.m., killing 49 people and wounding dozens. Many of the victims were Latinx and part of the LGBTQ+ community. The shooter — Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old former security guard — was killed in a shootout by responding police.

Law enforcement sources told ABC News that Mateen had a .223 caliber AR-type rifle and a Glock handgun on him at the time of the shooting, which the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said he bought legally. Mateen legally purchased the guns he had on him within a week of the shooting, despite being known to law enforcement for years, federal officials confirmed.

3. Nov. 5, 2017: First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas
25 deaths

Twenty-five people between the ages of 5 and 72 were killed after a gunman opened fire during a Sunday service. One of the shooting victims was pregnant. The shooter, Devin Kelley, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he was chased and shot by two men.

About 18 months before the massacre, Kelley purchased the rifle used in the shooting — an AR-556 model 8500 — in an Academy Sports + Outdoors store in San Antonio. Kelley was disqualified from purchasing the firearm because of domestic violence charges and a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, but was able to make the purchase because that information had not been reported to the FBI and did not come up in a background check, Texas officials said. A civil court found the Air Force 60% responsible for the mass shooting for failing to alert the FBI that Kelley could not legally purchase a gun through its alert system.

4. Aug. 3, 2019: Walmart in El Paso, Texas
23 deaths

Patrick Crusius, 24, reportedly told investigators that he set out to kill as many Mexicans as he could in a mass shooting that ultimately claimed the lives of 23 people. He legally purchased the high-powered assault-style rifle used in the shooting, attorneys for his mother, who contacted police because she was concerned about her son owning the firearm, told ABC News.

Crusius pleaded guilty to dozens of federal charges in the shooting and also faces state charges that could carry the death penalty.

5. May 24, 2022: Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas
21 deaths

Salvador Ramos, 18, shot his grandmother at their home in Uvalde, critically wounding her, before driving to Robb Elementary School and opening fire in a classroom with an AR-15-style rifle, killing 19 students and two teachers and wounding others, police said. He was shot and killed by a responding law enforcement officer. Ramos legally purchased two AR-style rifles on May 17 and May 20, 2022, just days after his 18th birthday, officials said.

6. Feb. 14, 2018: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida
17 deaths

Fourteen children and three staff members were killed after a gunman brought an AR-15 into the high school. The shooter, Nikolas Cruz, 23, a former student at the school, bought the AR-15-style rifle used in the attack legally a year before the incident, authorities said. Authorities believe he had access to 10 firearms, all long guns, seven of which he purchased legally, sources said at the time.

Cruz pleaded guilty to 17 counts of murder and was sentenced to life in prison last year.

7. Dec. 2, 2015: Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California
14 deaths

Fourteen people were killed and another 21 injured in a terrorist attack at the Inland Regional Center, a facility aimed at providing services for the developmentally disabled. The shooters — Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik — both died in a shootout with law enforcement that day, police said. They were armed with two assault-style weapons and two handguns, all of which were purchased legally, according to law enforcement.

8. Sept. 16, 2013: Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.
12 deaths

Aaron Alexis, a former Navy reservist, had a documented history of paranoia and mental instability before firing a shotgun at the Navy Yard, killing 12 and injuring several others before responding officers shot and killed him, police said. He passed a federal background check and legally purchased the shotgun from a Virginia gun shop two days before the shooting, officials said.

9. Nov. 7, 2018: Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California
12 deaths

A gunman killed 12 people, including a police officer, after opening fire in a packed bar, before taking his own life, authorities said. The suspect — former U.S. Marine Ian David Long — was armed with a legally purchased Glock 21 .45-caliber handgun that was equipped with an extended ammunition magazine, authorities said.

10. May 31, 2019: Virginia Beach Municipal Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia
12 deaths

The public utilities engineer who gunned down 12 people, including 11 colleagues, at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center before police shot and killed him committed the massacre with legally bought pistols and a gun suppressor, officials said. Investigators said DeWayne Craddock used two .45-caliber pistols, extended ammunition magazines and a gun suppressor — all of which he purchased legally.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Nashville fire chief reflects on first responders actions on Covenant School shooting

ABC News

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Nashville Fire Chief William Swann spoke with GMA 3 Tuesday about the first responders who sped to The Covenant School after three students and three adult staff members were shot.

GMA 3: Joined now by director Swann from the Nashville Fire Department. And your men and women were some of the first to respond to the scene. Tell me what they encountered when they got here.

NASHVILLE FIRE CHIEF WILLIAM SWANN: Oh, absolutely. We responded along with the Metro Police Department. We have a rescue task force team. We train for these moments and we wish they never happened. But as you can see, it’s something that happens all around the nation. So once the call came in, our job is a little different. Once the threat is neutralized, then our teams go inside alongside P.D., and we try to find individuals that we can pull out and begin lifesaving measures and also transport them to our local ERs…for more advanced medical treatment.

So, again, yesterday, as I reflect on just what happened and we think about how horrific it was; we had three kids that lost their lives [and] what their families are going through; [we had] the three adults [and] what they, what their families are going through; we [had] our first responders [and] what they’ve seen, and then [we had] the survivors, the kids and the staff that was there. This forever will be with them, the residue of this day.

Also, the community, the city, the state and the whole nation can actually feel what happened yesterday and take it personally because all of us have kids and we think about sending our kids to school to get [an] education and return home. It didn’t happen yesterday.

We were just thankful that the rapid response and what was done by our local police department and then our fire department and Office of Emergency Management.

It could have been a lot worse. But if you lose one life, that’s way too many. And definitely, a heart [fills] up when we think about all the victims that lost their life yesterday and their family members.

GMA 3: When you pull up to a place like this… these are little kids, young kids, the victims, 9 years old. How does that change how you interact, how you respond?

SWANN: Well, when you think about the nature of what the fire department does, and then that includes our EMS division, this is unfortunately the nature of what we do. We deal with people who are in distress and we deal with people if there’s a shooting, stabbing or homicide, whatever it may be, we deal with this every day. But being in this field for 28 years, I will tell you there’s nothing more gut-wrenching than responding to a child. Nothing.

That moment changes everything for you because we all can relate to the innocence of it. So, again, yesterday, we really want to focus on now that this scene is over. Again, our prayers go out to those families. And then also making sure that our responders are taken care of in mental health and just trying to make sure that the healing process begins. But it’s just a scene in something that we never want to do. But it’s the nature of our job and, unfortunately, in this day and time is more frequent than we want.

GMA 3: Those images of the children from yesterday: holding hands, filing out single file — that the child with just the absolutely terrified-looking face on the school bus. You guys have to organize all of that. The logistics of safely getting them out of the school into a new, new safe place to be. How do you do that in that situation?

SWANN: Well, this is because of training. We realize that no matter what that scene is, there have to be things that take place. And all of this goes back to training. We realize that instantly, once the threat is taken care of, we have to set up a reunification center. We have to make sure that we set a place up where parents can be reconnected with their children. We have to make sure also that on the scene itself, we know we’re going to be there for a while.

So a lot of logistics have to take place in this part of training. But when you step away from that moment and you get to yourself and you go home, of course we are reflecting and it becomes more personal because all of us have children, all of us have kids. And it is truly something that the whole nation can relate to, whether it’s here in Nashville or it’s in some other state or some other country. Again, this is just a tragic reality of where we are at in this day and time.

GMA 3: When you come home from this yesterday and when you came home, what do you say to your family?

SWANN: Well, my youngest son is still in high school and I have a grandson that lives with me that is in first grade. Just like any other parent, I’m sure when I came home, I wanted to see him. I wanted to hug him and express love. I think there’s no better medicine than to hug your kids and you get a laugh and a smile for them. And unfortunately, there were individuals that were not able to do that. So alongside feeling appreciative of your family, a heart goes out to those who will not be able to do that.

GMA 3: What do you say to those parents? Because there are parents all across America watching who this is their greatest nightmare and we keep seeing it happening. How do you prepare your kids? How do you have a conversation with them about what do you do in this situation?

SWANN: I’m glad you mentioned that.

We try to teach our kids about stop, drop and roll and what to do, if you will, if you catch on fire or home safety, [it’s] same way, [for] school safety. And we’re very fortunate because that’s one of the things that we do. We do a lot of training with the schools and they prepare for these types of incidents. What’s striking here is when you look at schools, you think about the safety of, especially if it’s a disaster, strong line winds or something. We know that schools are the safest place for kids to be. But when it’s man-made, then it breaks our barriers.

So I think training and preparing are always essential because yesterday that training paid off. And I’m sure as this story develops, there’s going to be a lot of great heroic stories from within and within that tragedy that will come out. But it’s just right now, I think what is needed is just reflection on your own life and then just the thoughts that goes out to the family members of the kids and the adults that lost their life.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Friend says she contacted authorities after speaking to Nashville shooter Audrey Hale on morning of attack

Obtained by ABC News

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — A friend of Nashville school shooter Audrey Hale tells ABC News that she contacted local authorities on Monday morning after Hale messaged her online about “planning to die today” — but that the authorities didn’t come to speak to her until after the attack had taken place.

Hale, 28, shot and killed three children and three adults in a mass shooting at the Covenant School Monday before being killed by responding police officers, according to authorities. Police said Hale may have previously attended the school.

Paige Patton, a Nashville radio host who goes by the name Averianna, told ABC News that said she played basketball with Hale in eighth grade and remained in occasional contact with Hale.

She said was contacted Monday morning by Hale, who told her, “I’m planning to die today. This is not a joke. You will probably hear about me on the news after I die.”

“This is my last goodbye,” Hale wrote, according to Patton. “I love you, see you again in another life.”

Patton said she messaged Hale back, saying, “Audrey, you have so much more life to live.'”

“I know, but I don’t want to live, I’m so sorry. I’m not trying to upset you or get attention, I just need to die. I wanted to tell you first because you are the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen and known all my life,” Hale responded, according to Patton.

Patton said she sent her father a screenshot of Hale’s messages and asked him if she should call somebody. Her father said yes and recommended that she call the suicide prevention line, Patton told ABC News.

She spoke to someone at the suicide prevention line who suggested she call local authorities, according to Patten. When she did, they said they would send someone out to her location to review the screenshots, Patton said.

But Patton said no one came to see the messages themselves until that afternoon, after the shooting had taken place.

“The call stamp was 3:29 when someone finally had come to see the screenshots and see if they could, like, ping that Instagram [account] or whatnot,” Patton told ABC News.

Page said that Hale and her were “more so acquaintances” than friends, but Hale would come to various events that Patton hosted around Nashville, and that Hale, a graphic designer, would post drawings of Patton on social media.

Patton said she had heard over the years that Hale was suicidal, even as she described Hale as “happy” and “feisty” on the basketball court.

She said she doesn’t know why Hale was struggling, and wasn’t aware of any issues regarding Hale’s gender identity. A police spokesperson told ABC News that Hale, who was assigned female at birth, had a social media account that included the use of the pronouns he/him.

“I knew she liked girls, but I didn’t know anything about the preference of the he/she or switching over or transgender … I only know her as Audrey,” Patton told ABC News.

On her efforts to alert authorities, Patton said, “I just wanted to get help — I didn’t really know the severity of it. Just something in me told me, like, ‘You need to make these phone calls. You need to do what needs to be done.’ And I did the best I could.”

Page said that when she first heard Audrey was the shooter, “I literally was like, ‘I cannot believe this. I cannot believe this.’ And so I called my dad, and I was like, ‘Daddy, that was her.'”

“My heart is just … it’s just … I’m speechless,” Patton said of the attack. “It’s just so much to feel … the kids, and then the families, it’s a lot to try to wrap your head around. And to know that we don’t know what or why — it’s just crazy. It’s crazy.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, free, confidential help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call or text the national lifeline at 988.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Nashville police lauded for speedy response in school shooting

Metro Nashville Police Department

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — The swift and organized police response to the school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday was roundly lauded by local officials and credited with preventing additional carnage and casualties.

A six-minute body camera video released Tuesday showed officers weaving through classrooms and corridors before approaching and neutralizing the shooter, who by then had shot and killed six people, including three students.

“They trained for that. And this moment happened and they didn’t hesitate at all,” Metro Nashville Chief of Police John Drake said Tuesday on “Good Morning America.”

He added, “They responded, immediately went inside, knew the danger that was going on. Shots were being fired at the police cars. That did not deter them. They went anyway inside.”

The law enforcement response in Nashville stood in stark contrast with the events that unfolded last year at Robb Elementary School, where officers waited 77 minutes before confronting and killing the shooter.

John Cohen, a former Homeland Security official, veteran police training expert and ABC News contributor, reviewed and scrutinized body camera footage available from both incidents and found that the officers in Nashville did “exactly what we hope those who put on the badge will do when they confront a dangerous situation like an active shooter.”

“As a law enforcement professional, I watched The Covenant School video with an intense sense of pride,” Cohen said. “I know how hard those officers’ hearts are pumping and what that fear feels like. But this is why you sign up for the job. And they went in there and did it.”

Cohen laid out several key points that demonstrated how the officers successfully responded. They communicated with school officials and immediately tried to assess the situation — learning the number of suspects and determining where people were sheltered in place, he said. Moreover, officers operated with urgency and purpose to quickly clear rooms and communicate which rooms were cleared. After neutralizing the shooter, officers immediately formed security teams and began providing aid to the victims, he noted.

In Uvalde, responding law enforcement officials faced a deluge of scrutiny after a gunman shot and killed 21 people, including 19 students. After initially praising first responders for their efforts, state and local leaders eventually acknowledged cascading missteps that compounded the outcome of the attack.

“We failed,” Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told ABC News. “And I say ‘failed’ and I said ‘we’ … because collectively we did.”

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Tornado destruction highlights low-income disaster preparedness challenges

Scott Olson/Getty Images

(ROLLING FORK, Miss.) — The South was devastated by tornadoes last weekend – destroying homes, shattering families and leaving thousands to pick up the pieces of what they’ve lost. More than 20 people have died in connection with the storms, according to authorities.

Residents in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, one of the towns most devastated by the tornadoes, were first put under a tornado watch more than 2.5 hours before the first tornado touched down.

However, being prepared for a disaster at any moment’s notice can be difficult for low-income residents.

Sharkey County, home to Rolling Fork, has a 35% poverty rate, which is higher than Mississippi’s 19% poverty rate and the less than 12% U.S. poverty rate, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

More than half of Mississippi residents have fewer than $1,000 in savings and about 38% have no savings at all, the State Treasury of Mississippi reports.

Poverty can impact someone’s access to cellphones and other technology to receive weather alerts, access and financial support to transport oneself to a shelter or to evacuate, and more.

You have to “create a culture” of ongoing preparedness, particularly in a place where “but at the same time, the economics don’t let you do that,” said Tanya Gulliver-Garcia, the director of learning and partnerships at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy,

Research from the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University found that nearly two-thirds of American households don’t have adequate plans and supplies for a disaster.

Studies have also shown that people in poverty, with low incomes and with less education, are less prepared for disasters.

According to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, cellphones have been a great tool for warning residents with emergency alerts.

However, ensuring that people of all economic backgrounds have the technology to be reached “is something that we have to – to continually look at what we can do to better inform people,” Criswell told ABC News in an interview.

“We need to really talk to these families and find out how they would have better gotten this message because we have to always work on giving people early warnings,” she told ABC News.

Especially in places like Mississippi, which experiences 30 to 100 tornadoes each year, ensuring that tornado watches and warnings are being heeded is a struggle within itself, according to ABC News’ meteorologist Ginger Zee.

Gulliver-Garcia also found that access to transportation plays a big role before and after a disaster.

The closest rated tornado shelter from Rolling Fork is 17 miles west in Mayersville.

“A number of people didn’t have cars or cars that were properly working and then they got destroyed,” said Gulliver-Garcia. “Because they’re small towns, they also don’t have a public transit system. Even the ability to access any kind of support – to go to a disaster recovery center, get to a shelter, to a feeding program – those are all challenges.”

Living paycheck-to-paycheck makes it harder to save and be prepared for a tragedy — and it also hinders recovery, .

“Your home is destroyed and the place where you lived is no longer accessible to you … And then if you are working paycheck-to-paycheck or you’re working a job that was destroyed – If you’re not allowed back in the community right away, you’re not even getting that paycheck-to-paycheck anymore. That’s gone as well,” Gulliver-Garcia said.

With thousands in likely home repair and recovery costs, rebuilding can snowball into compounding debt.

“In some of these communities, they are certainly some of the poorest communities in the state,” Criswell said. “And we know that we’re going to have to bring the full force of the federal family in there to come help them.”

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Timeline: How the Nashville shooting at Covenant School unfolded

Nashville Police Department

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Three children and three adults were killed in a mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday.

The alleged shooter, who was identified by police as 28-year-old Nashville resident Audrey Elizabeth Hale, was killed by officers.

Here is the timeline of what we know took place, according to investigators. All times are local.

9:54 a.m.: The suspect’s vehicle is seen on surveillance cameras arriving at the school and parking in the parking lot.

10:10 a.m.: The suspect is seen in surveillance footage shooting through the front door and entering the building.

10:13 a.m.: Nashville Police receive a call of an active shooter inside Covenant School.

The suspected shooter allegedly entered the Christian school through a side entrance and went from the first floor to the second floor, firing multiple shots, police said.

Officers entered the school and began clearing it when they heard shots coming from the second level, according to investigators.

A team of five officers arrived on the second level and saw a shooter who was firing. Two officers engaged the suspect, who was fatally shot, according to investigators.

10:27 a.m.: The suspected shooter is declared dead, investigators said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.