Family of Nashville shooting victim, 9, say she died trying to lead friends to safety

Evelyn Dieckhaus, one of the nine-year-old victims of Monday’s horrific Nashville school shooting, was killed while leading her classmates to safety in response to a fire alarm seemingly tripped by the attacker, her family believes.

Her aunt, Kelly Dorrance, wrote in an private Instagram post provided to The Daily Beast: “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.

“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.”

Ms Dorrance told the outlet her niece 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 humour and a sly little smile.”

The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department has meanwhile confirmed to the same source that its investigation currently indicates “that the alarm originated from the area of the shooter’s entry” at The Covenant School on Monday morning.

Evelyn’s funeral – the first of those killed in shooter Audrey Hale’s assault on the Christian institution – is set to take place on Friday as the Tennessee city comes together to mourn its dead.

Services for substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61, and Hallie Scruggs, nine, will be held on Saturday.

Nine-year-old William Kinney’s funeral will take place on Sunday, while services for Mike Hill, 61, the school’s custodian, will be held on Tuesday and the funeral for headmistress Katherine Koonce, 60, will take place on Wednesday.

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

She added: “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.”

In an obituary for Evelyn written by her family, they wrote: “With an unwavering faith in the goodness of others, Evelyn made people feel known, seen, but never judged.

Evelyn Dieckhaus at The Covenant School in Nashville (AP)
Evelyn Dieckhaus at The Covenant School in Nashville (AP)

“Her adoring family members agree that ‘she was everyone’s safe space.’”

In pre-school, Evelyn “would often position herself between two younger babies, intuitively offering comfort by patting their backs,” her family said, adding that she would greet people with open arms and an infectious laugh.

She enjoyed drawing and her teachers “would observe Evelyn studying the world around her with curiosity, eagerness, and clarity,” according to the obituary.

Evelyn also liked to sing along to tunes by Taylor Swift and from the Broadway show Hamilton, loved her dogs, Mable and Birdie, and had asked for a pet rat for her 10th birthday present.

“Strong but never pushy, she had self-composure and poise beyond her years,” the obituary said. “This girl ‘could read a room.’”

On Thursday, hundreds of locals protesters flooded the Tennessee State Capitol demanding lawmakers take action on gun control in the wake of the tragedy.