BREAKING: Former Leesville woman among Nashville shooting victims

Published 10:09 am Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Two of the six people fatally shot at a Christian elementary school in Nashville on Monday included a substitute teacher originally from Leesville and Baton Rouge native Katherine Koonce, the school’s head master.

Three children and three adults died in The Covenant School shooting. The Presbyterian school was founded in 2001 just south of downtown Nashville and has about 200 students from preschool through sixth grade, as well as roughly 50 staff members.

The massacre by a former student claimed the life of its Head of School, Katherine Koonce — who had written on the school’s website that “we are participating in the miracle of (students’) development and seeing them transform into who they will be” — and Cynthia Peak, 61, a substitute teacher.

Others killed were 9-year-old Hallie Scruggs, the daughter of the pastor whose church runs the school; students Evelyn Dieckhaus and William Kinney, also both 9; and Mike Hill, 61, a custodian.

“Donna and I ask the entire state of Louisiana to pray for the families of Cynthia Peak, Katherine Koonce, and all the victims of Monday’s senseless, evil mass shooting in Nashville,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a statement to the Leesville Leader. “When we send our loved ones off to school to learn or teach, we should never have to worry if they will make it home alive.”

Peak was raised in Leesville spending most of her youth in Vernon Parish. She attended Leesville High School through her sophomore year in 1977 when her family relocated to Shreveport. Peak would go on to graduate from Captain Shreve High School in 1979 and then from college at TCU in 1983.

Peak’s father was a local physician who owned Broyles Clinic in Leesville before closing.

Koonce went to University High Lab School and studied at LSU. She had been at The Covenant School for nearly seven years.

Scruggs was the daughter of Chad Scruggs, the lead pastor at the Covenant Presbyterian Church.

“We love the Scruggs family and mourn with them over their precious daughter Hallie,” Park Cities Presbyterian Church Senior Pastor Mark Davis said in a statement. “Together, we trust in the power of Christ to draw near and give us the comfort and hope we desperately need.”

The suspect, Audrey Hale, 28, was a former student at the school. Hale did not target specific victims, but did target “this school, this church building,” police spokesperson Don Aaron said at a news conference Tuesday. Aaron said Hale, who was transgendered, legally bought seven firearms in recent years and hid the guns from her parents.

Hale was under a doctor’s care for an undisclosed emotional disorder and was not known to police before the attack, Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake said at the news conference.