School principal 'ran towards shooter to protect pupils' before being killed

The headteacher of a Christian elementary school left devastated by a mass shooting gave her life to protect pupils, it’s been reported.

Dr. Katherine Koonce, 60, is believed to have had a ‘confrontation’ with attacker Audrey Hale, 28, who prowled for victims with an assault rifle in hand.

Her body was later discovered in a corridor and she was killed alongside three nine-year-old students, a custodian and a substitute teacher.

Russ Pulley, a member of Nashville city council and a former FBI agent, said Katherine tried to save her students at The Covenant School in Nashville.

‘The headmaster, Dr. Koonce, upon hearing the first shots, ran toward the danger,’ he wrote on Facebook.

‘She also made sure the school was prepared with active shooter training and protocols. Those actions saved countless lives.’

He elaborated on Fox News Digital, saying a witness at the school had told him that Katherine was on a Zoom call when Hale shot through a locked glass door onsite. 

‘She immediately ended the call, got up, and headed straight for the shooter’, he went on.

‘She did what principals and headmasters do; she protected her children.

‘In addition, she prepared the school by seeking advanced level active shooter training and from witnesses at the scene, this protocol, details of which I cannot provide, saved countless lives.’

John Drake, the chief of Nashville police, also said on Tuesday that he believed the principal moved towards the danger, although he couldn’t offer more detail.

He said: ‘There was a confrontation, I’m sure – you can tell the way she was lying in the hallway.’

Katherine has been remembered as a hero by her church, West End Community Church.

‘She gave her life in defense of the children under her care’, said pastor John Bourgeois said in a message sent to churchgoers.

One parent at the school has described the headteacher as ‘a saint’, saying ‘she did so much for those kids’.

‘She knew every single student by name’, she told the BBC. ‘She did everything to help them when families couldn’t afford things, it didn’t matter. She found ways for them to stay.’

Katherine had written on the school’s website that ‘we are participating in the miracle of (students’) development and seeing them transform into who they will be’.

Three of her pupils lost their lives in the massacre, Hallie Scruggs, 9, the daughter of the pastor whose church runs the Covenant School, Evelyn Dieckhaus, 9, and William Kinney, 9.

Substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61, and custodian Mike Hill, 61, were the two final victims.

Hale, a former student at the school, was shot dead by police.

He legally bought seven guns over the last few years and hid them from his parents before carrying out the attack by firing indiscriminately.

Authorities say he was not on their radar before the attack, while police say he was under a doctor’s care for an undisclosed emotional disorder.

A motive for the killings has not been given, but Nashville Police Chief John Drake told NBC News that investigators believed Hale harboured ‘some resentment for having to go to that school’ as a child.

Hale was a transgender man and his gender was previously incorrectly reported.

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