On March 27, 2023, a heavily armed shooter entered The Covenant School — a private, Christian pre-K through middle school in Nashville, Tennessee — and opened fire, killing three children and three adults. Nashville Metro Police initially identified the suspect as Audrey Elizabeth Hale, whom law enforcement killed.
As reported by the Daily Beast, Hale had "recently announced she was transgender, identifying as he/him," according to a "source close to the Hale family." The Daily Beast's reporting identified a LinkedIn profile "which the source confirmed … as belonging to Hale" and which "listed he/him pronouns." A widely distributed photograph of Hale came from that LinkedIn profile.
Reporting from NBC News indicated that Hale had begun using the name Aiden. The LinkedIn profile reported by both outlets included a link to a website of Hale's art and design portfolio. On that website, the Instagram handle was listed as "@creative.aiden." That account has since been deleted.
As information was disseminated about the subject, several anti-trans social media posts went viral by sharing photographs of individuals they falsely alleged were of Hale. One of these photographs appeared to be derived by someone who confused the shooter's Instagram handle with another somewhat similarly named user:
While the photograph on the left appears to be Hale, based on the art displayed in front of the person pictured, the picture on the right is from the Instagram account of an unrelated Aiden whose username is @aidencreates. This is a decidedly different username than @creative.aiden, the one that actually belonged to the shooter. In a TikTok and Instagram Reel video posted well after the Nashville shooter had been killed, @aidencreates said, "I have nothing to do with [the Nashville shooting], I live in Pennsylvania."
At least one other person with a similar username to @creativeaiden got caught up in this misidentification, as well. A Reddit user bearing a similar username had long been dormant until the Tennessee shooting occurred. In a post following the shooting titled "Please stop," u/creativeaidan (with an "a" at the end) wrote:
So ridiculous I have to say this, but I am not the Nashville shooter, as evidenced by the fact that I am still very much alive. Please stop spamming my old posts with messages and sharing my account.
Another photograph alleged to be of Hale comes from a trans-rights protest that was occurring in Oklahoma at roughly the same time as the shooting:
The picture on the left was taken by a Twitter user who photographed an Oklahoma trans-rights rally. The original photograph was posted to Twitter on the evening of March 27, 2023, with the caption, "Today in Oklahoma."
As a result, this image cannot possibly show the Nashville shooter — Hale was deceased by then.
Because both pictures were probably connected to individuals unrelated to the Nashville shooting, we rate claims that these photographs show Hale as "False."