The Nashville school shooter fell into an emotional spiral after the recent death of
a close friend, ex-classmate says
Friends of Audrey Hale, 28, still can't grasp how the "loving" teenager they knew
could go launch a deadly attack that killed six people.
Audrey Hale struggled to cope with the death of a close friend in the months
before the rampage that killed six people at a private Christian school, those who
knew the school shooter said Wednesday.
The 28-year-old, who attacked The Covenant School on Monday, was devastated
by the death in August of Sydney Shere Sims in a traffic accident, former
classmate Samira Hardcastle said.
Hale and Sims attended Isaiah T. Creswell Middle School of the Arts and the
Nashville School of the Arts.
"Audrey definitely admired Sydney," Hardcastle said.
One of Hale's former instructors at the Nossi College of Art & Design, Maria
Colomy, said Sims' death took a great emotional toll on her former student.
"A lot of comments about 'you were all that mattered' [and] 'I’ll miss you forever,'
etc.," Colomy said, paraphrasing what she saw of Hale's social media postings.
Sims' father declined to comment Wednesday.
Hale as a teen
Hardcastle struggled to reconcile the kind teenager she knew a decade ago as the
same person who fatally shot three 9-year-olds, a school administrator, a
custodian and a substitute teacher Monday.
"I saw the [police] body camera videos, and the way she was dressed on Monday
is exactly what she looked like in high school," Hardcastle said.
"She wore baggy clothes, kind of mixed-matched clothes. She'd wear a ball cap
sometimes," Hardcastle said. "So exactly how they showed her on the bodycam
footage was exactly how I remember her looking and how she always dressed."
Another high school classmate broke down in tears while speaking with NBC
News on Wednesday, grieving the victims and the shooter, whom police killed.
"I doubt that there's anyone you can talk to who would even be able to answer
why. It's not logical," said the woman, who asked not to be named out of fear of
online reprisals. "I'll never understand, it because it's not a logical thing to do. I'm
very sad for the loss of my friend, and I'm very sad for the families and the loved
ones of the victims. I'm very sad for her parents, because they lost their child."
Hardcastle, a middle school art teacher, last ran into Hale a month ago in
downtown Nashville at a show by their mutual friend and radio personality
Just before the shooting at The Covenant School, Patton got a message from Hale,
who warned that something bad was about to happen.
Nothing in the brief encounter at Patton's show gave Hardcastle any belief
something was going to go horrifically wrong.
"She seemed like she always did, just kind of quiet," she said. "But I don’t know if I
could go off that two-minute interaction and say how she was feeling.”
'So loving to everyone'
Another former classmate of Hale's, Sonia Castelar, said their high school was
geared toward the arts and drew a lot of different types of students.
She recalled Hale as dressing in a "quirky, ’90s style" and seeming "nice and
quiet." Now, she said, she's "in shock and disgusted with everything."
"We had other students who were transgender or LGBTQ," Castelar said. "Our
high school was really accepting of that."
Investigators have stopped short of publicly assigning a motive to Monday’s
attack — although Police Chief John Drake hinted that a sense of “resentment”
could have fueled Hale’s assault.
The high school version of Hale showed no signs of “resentment” of anyone,
“No, definitely not. She was so loving to everyone, and I think she might have just
wanted to fit in,” Hardcastle said. “Everyone was kind to her, because they knew
she might have been on the spectrum, and she was so kind, so people
reciprocated that energy to her.”