What turns a smiling teenager into a school shooter?

A former friend and classmate said she received a haunting message from Audrey Hale the morning of the shooting.
WSMV4 Investigate's Jeremy Finley reports.
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 11:50 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 29, 2023 at 5:11 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Metro Police said Tuesday that Audrey Hale was under a doctor’s care for an emotional disorder.

Police said Hale bought seven firearms legally in recent years. The guns were bought at five different stores. Hale also hid the guns from the parents. Three of those weapons were used during Monday’s shooting.

“Law enforcement knew nothing about the treatment she was receiving, but her parents felt that she should not own weapons,” Metro Police Chief John Drake said on Tuesday. “They were under the impression that when she sold the one weapon, she did not own it anymore.”

Metro Police Chief John Drake details whether police could have taken guns from shooter.

Police said the shooter did not specifically target the victims at the school, but writings that were recovered revealed the attack was calculated and planned.

Police said that when Hale left the home on Brightwood Avenue carrying a red bag. Police said Hale’s mother asked about it, but the shooter dismissed the question.

Police now know Hale was carrying guns and had stored other weapons at the house without parents’ knowledge.

Now we are piecing together how a once smiling Nashville teenager became a mass shooter.

It’s a grim contrast – the grinning high school student at the Nashville School of the Arts and then graduate of Nossi College of Art & Design would become a mass shooter of children and staff at The Covenant School.

The question of why baffles the shooter’s middle school classmate. Some of the most alarming information about Hale comes from her.

“To give you a direct answer, I’m asking God the same question,” Averianna Patton told CNN.

Not long before the shooting, Hale messaged Patton on Instagram. The shooter wrote that family didn’t know what was about to happen. One day it will make more sense, adding “I’ve left more than enough evidence … something bad is about to happen, and then, forgive me.”

An Instagram message from Audrey Hale to Avrianna Patton sent minutes before a school shooting...
An Instagram message from Audrey Hale to Avrianna Patton sent minutes before a school shooting at The Covenant School.(Photo submitted)

“But yeah, it’s just, I just would have never thought like that I, that I would receive a message before something tragic happens like this,” Patton told NBC.

Patton wrote back, “Audrey you have so much more life to live.”

Patton said she contacted a suicide prevention hotline and reached out to the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, but by then, the shooting was underway.

Social media also gives more glimpses into Hale’s life.

Police said Hale identified as transgender. Hale’s LinkedIn reads “he/him” as an illustrator and graphic designer. The name with the account – Creative. Aiden.

On the message to Patton, Hale goes by the name Aiden.

If you look at one of the weapons Hale used in the attack, the name “Aiden” is written on a sticker.

Those are the facts, but context is important.

There is no indication that Hale’s gender identification had anything to do with the shooting.

Police said they have no motive. They do have a manifesto.

WSMV4 Investigates spoke with a member of the Hale family. That family member said at this point the family had no comment.

Patton said Hale sent her a message that said, “So basically that post I made on here about you, that was basically a suicide note. I’m planning to die today,” and added, “THIS IS NOT A JOKE!!!!”

Patton is a former basketball teammate of Hale’s and said she did not know how to react to the cryptic message, so she sought advice from her dad.

“I screenshotted the message to my dad and (asked), ‘this don’t seem right, should I say something?’ And he immediately responded, ‘Yes.’”

Patton and her father decided the best thing to do was to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line, only to learn they could only help if she was the one needing guidance. So, she contacted the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office.

Patton would later learn that while she was attempting to organize a time to meet the Davidson County deputy, the shooting had already occurred at the school, and Hale was dead.

Police would later reveal that at 10:13 a.m., the 28-year-old entered The Covenant School on Burton Hills Boulevard on Monday and killed three children and three adults. By 10:27 a.m., Metro Nashville Police tracked her down on the second floor of the school and killed her.

Averianna Patton said Audrey Hale sent her a message on Instagram the morning of the shooting.