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Nashville school shooting puts renewed focus on doors, security

Metropolitan Nashville Police Dept.

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — Security video from inside Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, captured the suspect entering the main school building unabated by blasting through two sets of glass double doors and stalking the halls before killing six people, including three children.

The security footage, released by police Monday night, raises new concerns over whether schools should have fortified or metal entrance doors that could have deterred or delayed the suspect’s entry. In the wake of recent school shootings, access to campuses and the role entrance doors played in the massacres have often come into question.

Nashville police said officers arrived at Covenant School and killed the suspect 14 minutes after getting the first 911 calls. The suspect, identified as 28-year-old Audrey Hale, was fatally shot by police officers on the second floor of the building, next to a broken window where the suspect allegedly fired at the patrol cars as they arrived at the scene.

The security video from Covenant School, a preschool to sixth-grade institution run by the Presbyterian church, begins by showing the suspect driving into the campus parking lot. Other video clips released by authorities captured the suspect firing several times at the glass doors on the side of the building.

The footage showed gunshots from one of two assault-type weapons the suspect was armed with easily shattering both double glass doors with a single shot.

The suspect is then seen entering the school building through the shattered doors, the footage shows. The suspect was wearing a red ball cap turned backward, camouflage pants, sneakers, black gloves and wielding two assault-type rifles, one being held and the other slung over a shoulder.

Other security video clips showed the suspect walking by the church office before circling back and entering the apparently empty office through an unlocked door before emerging, pointing the barrel of a gun down the hallway and then going through a set of unlocked double doors.

More surveillance video showed the suspect walking down an empty hallway holding a rifle with two hands and briefly glancing at an area with a sign reading “Children’s ministry” and continuing down the hall.

Brink Fiddler, president of Defend System, an active shooter training company that performed drills with staff at Covenant School last year, told ABC News his team reviewed entrances and exits of the school with staff and administrators, going over floor plans, building materials and the surrounding neighborhood to determine “what choices are better than others.”

Fiddler said most schools his company is hired to do active shooter drills are “all unique.”

He noted that a lot of schools and businesses have glass doors like Covenant School.

“We know that the shooter was able to breach that door via shooting through glass, which is, tragically, the same thing that happened at Sandy Hook,” Fiddler said, referring to the 2012 mass shooting at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 26 people dead, including 20 children between the ages of 6 and 7.

He said the teachers and staff at the Covenant School appeared to follow their active shooter training.

“We take them through a very specific set of steps, depending on where the threat is, on when it’s best to evade and leave the building, or best to lock down and shelter in place,” Fiddler said. “From what I’ve been told, both of those things occurred based on where students and teachers were in relation to the threat.”

Police body camera footage released Tuesday, showed the first officer arriving at the school and being met outside by a school staff member who informed the officer, “The kids are all locked down, but we have two kids that we don’t know where they are.” The staffer also told the officer the location of where gunshots were heard inside the building and that “upstairs are a bunch of kids.”

The body camera video showed police searching classroom to classroom before going up to the second floor where officers fatally shot the suspect.

In recent school mass shootings, unlocked or unfortified doors have been a recurring problem.

Limiting entry points to school buildings, reinforcing main entrances and locking classroom doors have been among measures adopted by schools as part of safety measures taken in the years since the Columbine High School mass shooting in 1999.

During a shooting last month at Michigan State University, in which three students were killed and five were injured, the gunman entered the MSU Union building, home to a food court, through an unlocked door.

In the May 2022 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 students and two teachers were killed, the suspect entered the school through a door that failed to latch when a teacher attempted to close it.

In the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 students and staff were killed, the gates and doors the gunman entered were left “unlocked, open and unattended,” according to a 2019 report from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission.

But Brad Garrett — a retired FBI agent and an ABC News contributor, who has done security audits on schools — said fortifying entrance doors with material like bulletproof glass, is cost prohibitive for most schools, especially a small Christian school like Covenant. He said metal doors are a cheaper option, but they make schools feel dark and “prison-like.”

“The reality is that mass shooters are going to take enough time to figure out how to get in,” said Garrett, noting that police found maps and drawings of the school on the suspect.

Despite all of the precautions taken to prevent a school mass shooting, they are still bound to occur, Fiddler said.

“There’s 8 million solutions out there that people think will work,” Fiddler said. “I live in a realistic world. We’re never going to stop all these. But I focus on if we can mitigate 90% of the damage or more during these events. Why would we not focus on that piece? And the mitigation comes back to the training from people knowing what to do.”

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