Nashville police have identified 28-year-old Audrey Hale as the person who killed six people at a Nashville Christian school this morning before being killed by police.

Three nine-year-old students and three adult staff members at The Covenant School in Nashville were murdered Monday morning, March 27, in a mass shooting at the school. Police have since identified the shooter, who was shot to death at the scene by police, as a 28-year-old transgender Nashville resident. Reports vary, however, on whether the shooter was a transgender woman or a transgender man.

Those killed in the shooting were students  Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney, along with 61-year-old substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 60-year-old school head Katherine Koonce and 61-year-old school custodian Mike Hill. Their names and lives are, of course, being lost amid the flurry of headlines focusing on the shooter’s gender identity.

The first officers responding to reports of an active shooter at the school found the suspect, who they first said appeared to be a teenage girl, inside the school armed with two assault rifles and a handgun. Police then told reporters that the shooter was a 28-year-old woman who had once attended the school.

Nashville Police Chief John Drake then identified the shooter as Audrey Haley, saying  she was a transgender Nashville resident. Numerous media outlets then began referring to the suspect as a trans woman. But other reports say that Hale instead identified as a transgender man who used he/him pronouns, and a LinkedIn profile believed to be Hale’s uses he/him pronouns and indicates he identified as male. Hale’s chosen name, according to the LinkedIn profile, appeared to have been Aiden.

Drake said police have spoken with the suspect’s father and that they have found a manifesto and detailed maps of the school Hale created in planning the attack. Drake said police believe Hale once attended Covenant and resented having to attend the school. He said there were other drawings and writings indicating that Hale had considered also attacking another school but apparently chose not to after deciding security there was too tight. (Hale gained entry to Covenant by shooting out a locked glass door, then moved first about the first floor and then to the second, shooting people.)

But when asked if the suspect’s gender identity played any role in the motive behind the shooting, the police chief hesitated before replying, “We can give you that at a later time. There is some theory to that; we’re investigating all the leads.”

Drake said Hale had no criminal history and no known history of mental illness, though investigators were still looking into that.

Of course, the fact that the shooting suspect was apparently transgender has rapidly become the focus on news reports and right-wing trolls. The American Firearms Association posted a photo of Hale, presenting as male and standing at a desk (see photo above), declaring, “This is the Nashville shooter, transgender Audrey Hale. We can NEVER allow evil, hate filled people destroy our Second Amendment rights (sic)”.

On Twitter, TruthinBytes (@HipIsEdo) posted an image from LinkedIn that included a photo of Hale and information identifying him as an illustrator and graphic designer who attended Nossi College of Art in Nashville, and the Instagram tag “creative.aiden.” TruthInBytes wrotye: “BREAKING Shooter Identified In Covenant Christian School Shooting, as 28 y/o Audrey Hale of Nashville

“Word has it, ‘it’s’ a Trans-Gender, Identifying as he/him ˜”

The shooting came less than a month after Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed two separate laws targeting the LGBTQ community — one restricting drag shows and the other prohibiting gender-affirming health care for transgender minors. Police have given no indication if the passage of those laws may have influenced the shooter.

— Tammye Nash