The friend told the Daily Mail, "What she did was unforgivable but when I knew her she was a sweet and funny girl," adding, "When she came out as trans no one was surprised."
According to the outlet, the friend was "shocked” to learn the girl she ran track with was responsible for the mass murder that left three 9-year-olds dead as well as 3 staff members of the Covenant School.
The friend, who requested to remain anonymous, described 28-year-old Hale as not fitting "…the school shooter archetype. I don't know what would have happened to turn her into this person we see on the news. Everyone in my graduating class is losing it on Facebook. Really none would have seen this coming."
The friend added, "We went to Nashville School of the Arts in high school, where we had several trans students and others who were a part of the LGBTQ community. We were both in Visual Arts classes together and she was very involved with the school and had several friends."
"I'd never defend anyone that would hurt a child," the friend continued. "But really, it's still really hard to believe that she did this. I thought for sure it was a mistake at first. The whole situation is so surreal."
"She really did have a good group of friends and she did a lot of projects and school activities. Not at all what you would expect from someone in this kind of news headline."
The Daily Mail discovered the Nashville School of Arts alumni page where several former classmates of Hale were discussing the tragedy. One wrote, "This is crazy y'all. I'm sure all of us could say the Audrey we knew back in high school was so opposite from who they were this morning."
"Its tough enough to grasp if we even knew Audrey, you know? I know this is a shock to the NSA fam. My heart breaks for those sweet families who lost loved ones this morning."
Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney, all 9, were the three children gunned down by Hale along with custodian Mike Hill, 61, substitute teacher Cynthia Peak, 61, and school head Katherine Koonce, 60.
Surveillance video showed Audrey Elizabeth Hale driving her Honda Fit to the Covenant School Monday morning and entered the school around 10:13 am through the front doors firing her weapons.
The shooter can then be seen walking through a hallway with her gun drawn looking for people.
Hale was shot and killed by responding officers approximately 15 minutes after the shooting began and is reported to have had a detailed manifesto with plans on how to conduct the attack at the school. The full contents of the manifesto have not yet been released by the authorities.
Authorities said during a Monday press conference that Hale was a former student at Covenant Christian school. Officers found that Hale was armed with at least two rifles and a handgun, and a search of the family home in Nashville revealed detailed maps for the attack along with the manifesto.
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