EXCLUSIVE: Two Republican congressmen are demanding that the Department of Justice investigate Monday’s shooting that left six dead at a private Christian school in Nashville as a hate crime.
The Nashville Police Department said that Audrey Hale entered The Covenant School by shooting through a locked glass door around 10:13 a.m. on Monday morning and was armed with two rifles and a handgun.
Three students, all 9-years-old, were killed during the shooting: Hallie Scruggs, Evelyn Dieckhaus, and William Kinney. Three employees at the school were also killed: headmaster Katherine Koonce, 60, substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61, and custodian Mike Hill, 61.
Hale, a 28-year-old transgender who was a former student at The Covenant School, was killed after she began firing at responding officers.
Law enforcement officers found writings and hand-drawn diagrams of the school which indicate that the shooting was “calculated and planned.”
In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas, and Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Tenn. said that the Department of Justice needs to open a hate crime investigation into the shooting at The Covenant School.
“This week, America watched while a mentally ill shooter brutally massacred Christian schoolchildren in Nashville, Tennessee. This murderer, identified by law enforcement as Audrey Hale, shot and killed six people—three students, Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, and three employees Cynthia Peak, Katherine Koonce, and Michael Hill—while they studied and worked at The Covenant School. Police reports confirmed what many Americans already suspected. This attack was a targeted assault on American Christians,” the congressmen wrote.
The pair of congressmen also called it “appalling” that one hasn’t been opened yet.
“Federal law is clear, acts of violence against individuals based on religious affiliation are hate crimes,” Gooden and Ogles wrote in the letter. “The [shooter] was a former student at Covenant school and specifically chose to terrorize this school because of their Christian faith. It is appalling that you have not yet committed to opening a hate crime investigation despite the shooter’s motive being as clear as day,” they wrote.
“We urge you, as head of the Department of Justice, to immediately offer the full resources of federal law enforcement to the victims and community of this attack and open a hate crime investigation. Additionally, we urge you to forcefully condemn anti-Christian bias to send an unambiguous message to all Americans that discrimination against any community is unamerican and will not be tolerated. Further, we would ask that you update us regularly as to what steps the Department has taken to address our concerns. Thank you for your attention to this important matter,” they added.
Gooden said that the shooting should be labeled a “crime of hate.”
“The direct targeting of Christian schoolchildren must be labeled for what it is: a crime of hate designed to mutilate and massacre believers in Christ and chill religious practice in America. The full weight of the federal government must be unleashed, and determinations made about how this crime took place, and who influenced this deranged transgender individual to cut down America’s Christian children at their desks,” Gooden said.
Ogles described the shooting as a “senseless slaughter.”
“The shooter at The Covenant School in Nashville committed a heinous hate crime that should not be tolerated. She specifically targeted the Christian place of education she once attended and stole the lives of six innocent people,” Ogles said. “Attorney General Garland and the Department of Justice need to act swiftly to investigate this disturbingly senseless slaughter. This was not a ‘cry for help,’ it was an act fueled by hate.”
Garland said during a Tuesday Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing that it’s too early to establish a motive, which determines if an incident is a hate crime.
“As of now, motive hasn’t been identified, and the police chief said at his last press conference that they don’t yet have… a conclusion with respect to motive,” Garland said. “We are certainly working full time with them to determine what the motive is, and of course, motive is what determines whether it’s a hate crime or not.”
In a Tuesday statement, The Covenant School said that their “community is heartbroken.”
“We are grieving tremendous loss and are in shock coming out of the terror that shattered our school and church. We are focused on loving our students, our families, our faculty and staff and beginning the process of healing,” said the Covenant School.
The Department of Justice didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital.