Shortly before police bravely closed in on Audrey Hale, the apparently transgender shooter who killed six people, including three children, at a Nashville Christian school on Monday, another hero was already heading toward the murderer.
Katherine Koonce, head of The Covenant School, rushed to protect her students from Hale after the sound of gunfire interrupted a Zoom call she was on, according to Nashville City Councilman Russ Pulley. “It is my understanding from a witness at the school that Katherine Koonce was on a Zoom call when she heard the first shot. She immediately ended the call, got up and headed straight for the shooter,” Pulley told Fox News.
“Dr. Koonce, upon hearing the first shots, ran toward the danger,” he added in a Facebook post.
Koonce, 60, was murdered by Hale, alongside fellow staff members Cynthia Peak and Michael Hill, and 9-year-old students Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney.
Pulley also noted that Koonce had previously implemented active shooter drills at the grade school, which he credited with saving lives on Monday.
“She prepared the school by seeking advanced-level active-shooter training,” he said, “and from witnesses at the scene, this protocol – details of which I cannot provide – saved countless lives.”
Nashville Metropolitan Police Chief John Drake confirmed that Koonce had had a confrontation with the shooter.
“She was in the hallway by herself,” he said in a press conference on Tuesday. “There was a confrontation, I’m sure — you can tell the way she was lying in the hallway.”
In a letter to members of Koonce’s church, West End Community Church, Pastor John Bourgeois told members that Koonce “gave her life in defense of the children under her care.”
“She loved God and she loved people, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that she died protecting people,” said Stephana Greene, a Covenant mom. Greene also noted Koonce’s personal devotion to her students and their families. “You could come to the school 15-20 minutes early and pop a squat and have a pick-up talk with her, and she would be willing to either pray with you, she would be willing to either lead you in scripture,” she told a local news station.
Barrett Severance, a former student of Koonce’s, told another station that “there was a lot of times I felt like giving up, and so she would fight for us.”
“She was very much a champion for her students, she fought for all of them, oftentimes after we quit fighting for ourselves.”
Elle Purnell is an assistant editor at The Federalist, and received her B.A. in government from Patrick Henry College with a minor in journalism. Follow her work on Twitter @_etreynolds.