Beloved school head among victims

Beloved school head among victims

A school head, a custodian and a substitute teacher are among the victims of a shooting that left six dead at a school in Nashville, Tennessee.

Three pupils were also killed in the attack by a 28-year-old former student on Monday. The children, all aged nine, have been named as Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney.

The three employees killed were Cynthia Peak, 61, Katherine Koonce, 60, and Michael Hill, 61.

Police said they did not believe any of the victims had been specifically targeted.

Katherine Koonce, 60

Koonce was the head of school at Covenant, and one parent told BBC News she was a “saint”.

“She did so much for those kids,” said the mother, who had two children enrolled at school.

“She knew every single student by name,” she said. “She did everything to help them when families couldn’t afford things, it didn’t matter. She found ways for them to stay.”

Robert Gay said he met Ms Koonce when he was a student at Christ Presbyterian Academy, a small private Christian school in Nashville where he said Koonce once worked as a special education teacher.

He told BBC News she was always willing to encourage and empower her students.

“She could speak really carefully in a way that would encourage students to see the best in them and to grow,” he said.

“She always made her students feel that they were loved by a God who cared about them personally, and that it was our job to show that love for each other as fellow people.”

Koonce later became the head of the Covenant School, which was founded in 2001 as a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church, according to the school’s website.

Mike Hill, 61

Mr Hill was a custodian at the school and his daughter, Brittany Hill said he died doing a job “he absolutely loved”.

“Today my Dad lost his life at the Covenant School,” she shared in a post on Facebook.

“I have watched school shootings happen over the years and never thought I would lose a loved one over a person trying to solve a temporary problem with a permanent solution.”

Mr Hill worked at the Covenant School for more than 14 years, according to a statement from his family. “As we grieve and try to grasp any sense of understanding of why this happened, we continue to ask for support,” the statement said.

He was a father of eight children, according to a GoFundMe made in his honor, and had 14 grandchildren, US media reported. He enjoyed cooking and spending time with his family, his relatives told ABC News.

Tim Dunavant, a pastor at Hartsville First United Methodist Church, said he had previously worked at the Covenant and had hired Mr Hill.

He said he would miss “those encouraging texts out of the blue” from Mr Hill, and would not be surprised if it turned out Mr Hill had sacrificed his life to save others because “he was the kind of guy that would do that”.

Cynthia Peak, 61

Ms Peak was a substitute teacher working at the school on the day of the attack, police said.

She grew up in Louisiana. Chuck Owen, who said he was a lifelong friend of hers, wrote a tribute to her on Facebook saying he couldn’t wrap his mind around her death. “I grieve through tears as I write these words,” he wrote.

Ms Peak survived by her husband, daughter and two sons.

She had an “unwavering faith in Christ”, her brother, Bill Broyles, told the Tennesseans. “She was a strong believer. She would want a positive approach on this to help God’s kingdom on Earth.”

Koonce, 60, was a Baton Rouge native and graduated from Louisiana State University and University High Lab School.

Governor Bill Lee said his wife, Maria, had planned to meet Ms Peak on Monday night but was killed hours before.

Hallie Scruggs, 9

Hallie was the daughter of Chad Scruggs, senior pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church. He described his daughter as “such a gift” in a statement to ABC News.

He also spoke of his faith that they would one day be reunited.

“We are heartbroken,” he told the outlet. “Through tears we trust that she is in the arms of Jesus who will raise her to life once again.”

Evelyn Dickhaus, 9

Evelyn Dickhaus

Evelyn Dickhaus

At a church service held hours after the shooting, a senior minister at Woodmont Christian Church said Evelyn Dieckhaus was in the third grade. Her sister, who is two years older, cried during the service according to the Tennessean newspaper.

“I don’t want to be an only child,” the report quotes her as saying.

In a statement shared with US media, her family said their hearts were “completely broken”.

“We cannot believe this has happened,” they said. “Evelyn was a shining light in this world.”

William Kinney, 9

Rachael Freitas, a friend of the family, described the 3rd grader as a child with an “unflappable spirit”.

“He was unfailingly kind, gentle when the situation called for it, quick to laugh, and always inclusive of others,” he wrote in a GoFundMe fundraiser he created in his honor. “Sweet Will know no strangers, and our hearts are broken for his family as they try to find their way forward.”