IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Nashville Cops Pushed Through School to Shooter, Video Shows

Unlike responders in other school shootings, Nashville Metro Police arrived at the Covenant School quickly Monday morning and left no doubt that they were going in to take out the suspect, who had already mowed down six people.

In this screen grab from surveillance video tweeted by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, Audrey Elizabeth Hale points an assault-style weapon inside the Covenant School in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, March 27, 2023. (Metropolitan Nashville Police Department/TNS)
Metropolitan Nashville Police De/TNS
When Nashville Metro Police arrived at the Covenant School Monday morning in response to 911 calls for an active shooter, the officers were resolute in their intent.

The department released vivid body cam video showing officers entering the school building without hesitation, pushing through hallways and in and out of rooms in a march that eventually led to the armed suspect, who had already killed three 9-year-olds and three adults and was still firing their weapons.

“I know that when the chief [John Drake] was speaking to the media after the Uvalde shooting he said, ‘If that ever happens here we’re going in,’” said a representative from the Nashville Metro Police Department’s public affairs office who didn’t want to be identified.

Officers arrived at about 10:24 a.m., and through officer Rex Engelbert’s body cam, you see him taking an automatic-type weapon from the trunk of his patrol car and making his way to the school's entrance. He receives some instruction from a woman outside the building about the shooter’s whereabouts and the children.

“Yes, ma'am,” he says.

“I need three,” he barks as other officers appear; someone unlocks the entrance to the school.

“They arrived quickly and one officer is [leading] on how to get in and he’s calling for a team of three,” said Tom Wilson, director of the Center for Management and Technical Assistance at the Police Executive Research Forum and a former police officer. “A team of three is a response that you’ve got eyes to the front, eyes to the back and you can move your way through a facility, and that’s exactly what they did as quickly as they could.”

On the video, Engelbert continued to bark commands as the team cleared rooms and headed down hallways.

“Push it, let’s go.”

Wilson said that's how the training for this type of active shooter situation has evolved.

That evolution began after the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado that left 15 dead, including the two gunmen, in 1999. During that shooting, police staged and waited before entering the building.

Though the tactics have evolved since then, at least on paper, it hasn’t always played out that way in real life. Last year when Salvador Ramos went on a shooting rampage at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, police were criticized for not entering the building until more than an hour after the event started. In 2017 in Las Vegas, police waited in a hallway at the Mandalay Bay Hotel as Stephen Paddock fired away at concert-goers, eventually killing 60.

“You could tell from the video that Nashville has practiced that,” Wilson said. “I would venture to bet that in the last few years they’ve exercised this response because it was textbook.”

It took Engelbert and his team about three minutes to reach the shooter, Audrey Hale, who was firing an automatic-type rifle through a window at police outside.

Heading toward the gunfire, the team encountered Hale, and Engelbert reportedly fired four times. The suspect crumpled to the ground, then Engelbert commanded the team to move in. Officer Michael Collazo yelled to the fallen suspect to stop moving and fired four more times, then disarmed the fallen suspect. “Suspect down,” Callazo says on his radio.

“What you saw in Nashville is that they went to the sound of gunfire,” Wilson said. “As they came around that corner, they encountered that individual in a place that they could confront her and they took their shots. Fortunately, that ended the threat and that’s what it’s all about.”

“It’s a different world today,“ Wilson said. “If you compare it to Columbine, it was surround and contain and call in a special team. That’s not going to work today.”