Demands for shooter’s writings continue month after Nashville school shooting

Some Tennessee lawmakers, Elon Musk, country music stars and more are demanding the writings be released.
It has been one month since the shooter entered The Covenant School in Nashville and murdered six people in a premeditated attack.
Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 11:56 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 27, 2023 at 7:23 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – It’s been nearly a month since the mass shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville that ended the lives of six people, including three children.

Questions regarding the motive behind the shooting still linger, as the shooter Audrey Hale’s journal writings were collected by authorities as evidence and remain in police custody and outside of the public eye. The writings could explain why Hale, a former student at the school, drove to the school on March 27 and opened fire, killing three 9-year-olds, a school administrator, a substitute teacher, and a custodian.

The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said Wednesday that Hale’s journals and writings were still under review by the police department. In an email, the department said it is “contemplating the release of the material,” but could not specify if or when the writings would be made public.

On Thursday, the department said it is closer to releasing the writings. “We are beginning to close the review/preparation process for the public release of written material,” a spokesman said. Still, the department did not specify when the writings would be released.

Typically, evidence in such a mass shooting investigation would not be made public until the investigation is closed, the department said. Yet, it remains open, according to investigators, and police cite an ongoing investigation for not releasing the writings.

Unless there are other suspects or potential suspects, police cannot use the Rule 16 “ongoing investigation” exemption for not releasing public records because that exemption is tied to a criminal proceeding, writes Deborah Fisher of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. Hale was shot and killed by police, Fisher argues. Therefore, there will be no criminal proceedings regarding the case unless others were involved. Metro Police Chief John Drake has said Hale acted alone.

“Rule 16 is part of the rule system established by the state Supreme Court to ensure fair trials,” Fisher wrote. “The court does not apply its rules to reach over into issues not involving the court system. Nashville police also cannot rely on federal public records law to govern access to local public records that are governed by Tennessee law.”

Calls for the release of the writings from Tennessee lawmakers to Elon Musk, country music stars and Donald Trump Jr. Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall, despite not investigating the crime, has also said it’s his personal opinion the writings should be released.

“Audrey Hale murdered 6 Christians, and many Tennesseans are demanding that their state legislature ‘do something,’” State Rep. Jeremy Faison tweeted Monday. “We cannot possibly address this horrific situation until we know what was in her manifesto. I am calling on the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department & the FBI to immediately release this document so we can examine it, then take the appropriate steps.”

In a response to a tweet from a conservative political commentator, tech mogul and billionaire Elon Musk said he was “curious” about the manifesto. A tweet from John Rich, of the country music duo “Big & Rich” questioned why the manifesto remains a secret.

It remains unclear when police or the FBI will release Hale’s writings. A search of Hales’ Brightwood Avenue residence produced about 20 journals, two memoirs and several personal notes that remain in police custody. Several weapons were also found.

A WSMV4 investigation found Hale likely trained for the shooting.

Hale shot more than 150 rounds inside the private Christian school, killing 9-year-olds Hallie Scruggs, Evelyn Dieckhaus and William Kinney, Katherine Koonce, 60, and 61-year-olds Mike Hill and Cynthia Peak.