Nashville police, FBI refusing to release Covenant school shooter's writings amid lawsuits

In the month since the deadly Covenant School shooting, authorities have continued to keep the killer's writings and other materials under wraps, despite lawsuits and an administrative appeal outlining their importance to understanding what happened.

The Tennessee Firearms Association and the National Police Association are suing Nashville Police and the Tennessee Star filed an administrative appeal with the FBI. All three received almost identical denials of their requests for the materials, citing a Tennessee rule shielding records from public release if they are part of an ongoing criminal prosecution.

But those seeking the materials maintain there is no ongoing criminal prosecution related to the shooting. Police fatally shot the gunman, later identified as 28-year-old Audrey Hale. Hale killed six people at Covenant elementary school in March. Hale, a former student at the school, had two AR-style weapons and gunned down three young students and three staff members before being confronted by Nashville police.

Girls embrace on March 28, 2023, in front of a makeshift memorial for victims by the Covenant School building at the Covenant Presbyterian Church following a shooting in Nashville, Tennessee.

Calls for the release of the materials Hale left behind — which Tennessee Bureau of Investigations Director David Rausch characterized more as "ramblings" rather than writings pointing to any clear motive — have been growing over the past few weeks, heightened by Gov. Bill Lee’s statement on social media April 27 declaring that the information would be “released to the public very soon,” as well as his calls for a special session to pass his proposed gun control legislation.

The Tennessean has also requested the information and is pushing for its release.

Nashville blames lawsuits for delay

On Wednesday, Nashville police blamed the litigation for delaying release of the materials.

"Due to pending litigation filed this week, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department has been advised by counsel to hold in abeyance the release of records related to the shooting at The Covenant School pending orders or direction of the court," the department posted on Twitter.

Nashville lawyer Wally Dietz said in a statement Wednesday that the city is asking the court to give victims' families a chance to appear and raise concerns or objections about the release of the writings.

The city wrote in a filing Wednesday that "some parents from The Covenant School have informally indicated to the (police department) that they oppose the release of the shooter’s writings."

Dietz said the litigation seeks "voluminous documents." "We plan to file under seal the entire journal found in the shooter's car in the parking lot at The Covenant School together with our proposed redactions, under the Public Records Act, for the Court to review for release."

City asks court to postpone hearing on releasing writings

The city was asking the court to reschedule a hearing May 11 about releasing the records.

The city said that timeline was not feasible given the volume of materials, which included items other than Hale's journal. In addition, the city said Nashville police has "not had an opportunity to interview everyone related to the incident and review all the documents it has gathered" and postponing the hearing would give interested parties a chance to weigh in.

"The Metropolitan Government believes they should have an opportunity to participate in the show cause hearing if they wish and that the Court should consider these varying interests," Metro wrote in its filing.

Evan Mealins contributed to this report. The USA Today Network - Tennessee's coverage of First Amendment issues is funded through a collaboration between the Freedom Forum and Journalism Funding Partners. Angele Latham cam be reached at or on Twitter at @angele_latham.

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.