Nashville authorities released 911 calls on Thursday that capture the terror inside a Christian elementary school during an attack this week in which three children and three adults were killed.
In the tapes, callers can be heard pleading for help in hushed voices as sirens, crying and gunfire could be heard in the background.
Police released recordings of three 911 calls made during Monday’s attack at The Covenant School.
In one, a man tells the dispatcher he is with a group of people, including several children, who are walking away from the school toward a main road.
When the dispatcher requests a description of the attacker, the caller asks a second man to get on the line.
“All I saw was a man holding an assault rifle shooting through the door. It was – he’s currently in the second grade hallway, upstairs” the second man says. “White man. With camouflage. He had a vest on and an assault rifle.”
Asked about how many shots were fired, a woman responds: “I heard about 10 and I left the building.”
“It sounds like somebody is shooting guns,” the caller says. She then notes that there had been a pause in the gunshots.
The dispatcher asks if she was in a safe spot and says two other callers also reported gunshots at the school.
“I think so,” the woman says, as children can be heard in the background.
“I’m hearing more shots,” the caller said. “Please hurry.”
Another caller says he is in a room on the second floor and asks the dispatcher to send help.
“I think we have a shooter at our church,” he says, later adding: “I’m on the second floor in a room. I think the shooter is on the second floor.”
The release of the recordings came as people protested at the Tennessee Capitol on Thursday in favour of tighter gun controls, haranguing the Republican-led legislature to take action.
Chants of “Save our children!” echoed noisily in the hallways between the state Senate and House chambers, with protesters setting up shop inside and outside the Capitol.
Some silently filled the Senate chamber’s gallery, including children who held signs reading “I’m nine” — a reference to the age of the kids who died.
Most protesters were removed from the gallery after some began yelling down at the lawmakers, “Children are dead!”
The protests followed a Wednesday night candlelight vigil in Nashville where Republican lawmakers stood alongside first lady Jill Biden, Democratic lawmakers and musicians including Sheryl Crow, who has called for stricter gun controls since the attack.
Among those killed were the three students: Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney; Katherine Koonce, 60, the head of the school; substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61; and Mike Hill, a 61-year-old custodian.
Police have said Hale was under a doctor’s care for an undisclosed “emotional disorder”.
However, authorities have not disclosed a link between that care and the shooting. Police also said Hale was not on their radar before the attack.
Social media accounts and other sources indicate that the killer identified as a man and might have recently begun using the first name Aiden.
Police have said Hale “was assigned female at birth” but used masculine pronouns on a social media profile, however, police have continued to use female pronouns and the name Audrey to describe Hale.