The messages popped up in Averianna Patton’s Instagram account at 9:57 a.m. on Monday morning.
“I’m planning to die today.”
“You’ll probably hear about me on the news after I die.”
“This is my last goodbye. I love you. See you again in another life.”
The messages were from Audrey Hale, the 28-year-old identified by police as the shooter in Monday’s rampage at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville. Three children, all 9, and three adults were killed.
Hale sent the messages to Patton less than 20 minutes before police received the first 911 call about gunshots at the Covenant School. Copies were shared with The Washington Post.
For Patton, the messages were alarming and perplexing. She had known Hale since middle school, when they played basketball together. The two later attended the same high school, the Nashville School of the Arts, but didn’t really talk apart from exchanging hellos in the hallways.
As adults, they were connected on social media but weren’t close. Patton didn’t have Hale’s phone number or address. Last month, when Patton, a radio personality, was taping a live show, Hale showed up. A few weeks ago, they saw each other at a gathering to commemorate a former basketball teammate who died last year, Patton said.
When Patton received the messages Monday morning, she tried to respond with reassurance, saying that Hale still had much more life to live.
“I’m not trying to upset you or get your attention. I just need to die,” came the reply.
“One day this will make more sense . . . But something bad is about to happen. Forgive me.”
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Patton said that other friends had told her in the past that Hale had thought about suicide. She immediately contacted her father, who told her to call a suicide prevention hotline. She made the call but was told to reach out to the non-emergency line at the sheriff’s office since she was not the person in danger.
She called that number at 10:14 a.m. and was on hold for several minutes. She told the operator she had a friend who was going to commit suicide and asked them to check on Hale, Patton said, but she did not have an address or a phone number to give them. (A spokesman for the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
Police officers visited Patton’s home hours later that afternoon to follow up, but she was not there when they arrived, she said.
By then, Hale had blasted through the glass on some of the doors of the Covenant School. Authorities said the carnage Monday morning ended when police officers confronted and killed Hale on the school’s second floor.
Patton, 28, is mystified by why Hale reached out to her before the massacre. “I’m still asking God the same question,” she said.
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