Slain School Head Ran to Protect 'Her Children'

Katherine Koonce hailed as a hero in wake of shooting at Nashville's Covenant School
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2023 3:00 AM CDT
Updated Mar 29, 2023 6:01 AM CDT
Slain Head of Nashville's Covenant School Ran to Protect 'Her Children'
Students at a nearby school pay respects at a memorial for the people who were killed, at an entry to Covenant School, Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn.   (AP Photo/John Amis)

Katherine Koonce was the head of the Covenant School in Nashville, and was killed alongside three 9-year-old students, a substitute teacher, and a custodian in Monday's mass shooting at the school. She was in the middle of a virtual meeting when gunfire erupted, and authorities say, citing witnesses, "she immediately ended the call, got up and headed straight for the shooter." The Nashville city councilman who spoke to Fox News says Koonce "protected her children," and Nashville's police chief says that from the way her body was found, lying in a school hallway alone, he's "sure" there was a confrontation. The pastor of Koonce's church says "she gave her life in defense of the children under her care."

"In addition, she prepared the school by seeking advanced-level active-shooter training, and from witnesses at the scene, this protocol ... saved countless lives," the city councilman adds. The AP reports Koonce was also being described as "a rare female leader within a male-led religious culture." A friend of Mike Hill, 61, the custodian who was killed as the shooter blasted through glass doors to enter the school, posted online that he believes Hill likely also died a hero. "I have a feeling, when it all comes out, Mike’s sacrifice saved lives. I have nothing factual to base that upon. I just know what kind of guy he was. And I know he’s the kind of guy that would do that." (More Nashville school shooting stories.)

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