‘Radiant’ 9-Year-Old Killed While Leading Nashville Classmates to Safety, Family Believes

Courtesy of Kelly Dorrance
Courtesy of Kelly Dorrance

A 9-year-old girl killed during the deadly school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee may have been leading her classmates to safety after a fire alarm was tripped when the killer entered the school, her aunt told The Daily Beast.

Evelyn Dieckhaus’ aunt said that while exact details of Evelyn and other victims’ final moments are still unclear, she heard her “radiant” niece died after leading her classmates in what she possibly thought was a fire drill.

“We’re finding out the shooter may have pulled the fire alarm to get kids out of their classroom. Evelyn being one of the class leaders was at the front of the line assuming fire drill,” read a private Instagram post provided to The Daily Beast by the aunt, Kelly Dorrance.

“She was trying to lead her classmates to safety and possibly didn’t hear the shouts to come back in the room. Things children should never worry about,” read the post.

Evelyn, Dorrance told The Daily Beast, was “radiant—a beacon of joy in our family. She had a calm confidence and a natural sense of purpose—alongside a whip smart sense of humor and a sly little smile.”

The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department confirmed to The Daily Beast on Thursday that their investigation currently indicates “that the alarm originated from the area of the shooter’s entry” at The Covenant School on Monday morning.

Contrary to some reports that Dieckhaus was killed as she tried to pull the fire alarm, MNPD spokesman Don Aaron told The Daily Beast Thursday, “The investigation at present does not support a ‘pulling’ of the alarm.” MNPD declined to comment on whether Dieckhaus was killed while leading a fire drill from the classroom.

The other two 9-year-old victims were identified by police as William Kinney and Hallie Scruggs. Three school staff were also killed: 61-year-old custodian Mike Hill; head of school Katherine Koonce; and substitute teacher Cynthia Peak.

Harrowing body-camera footage released on Tuesday showed officers Michael Collazo and Rex Engelbert rushing into the school and following the sounds of gunfire to the second floor.

Once upstairs, Engelbert and Collazo saw the shooter, Audrey Hale, standing in front of a window, and opened fire. Hale was killed within 14 minutes of the initial call to police.

Dorrance said the death of her niece is a “nightmare you can’t wake up from,” but told The Daily Beast by text message that ”the support and love our family has received has proved that humanity is, ultimately, good."

“How our country puts assault rifles in the hands of civilians, I'll never understand. We are in disbelief. Devastated. Heartbroken. Sick,” she said on Instagram.

And though the family is grieving, they want to make sure Evelyn’s memory will live on, Dorrance told The Daily Beast: “After we get through this initial phase of grief, we’re committed to make her memory an important one that will save the lives of other children.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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