Nashville Police Say ‘Ongoing Investigation’ Prevents Release Of Covenant Shooter’s Manifesto
NASHVILLE, UNITED STATES - MARCH 27: Nashville police block the entrance of the Covenant School, a Presbyterian school associated with a church after three children and three adults were gunned down in Nashville, Tennessee, United States on March 27, 2023.
(Photo by Benjamin Hendren/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Attorneys representing Nashville, Tennessee argued Tuesday in court that police were still investigating aspects of the shooting committed at the Covenant School last March, when a transgender-identifying shooter murdered six people, and, therefore, the city is unable to release documents related to the case such as the shooter’s writings.

The argument came during a hearing over whether to release the killer’s writings, which have thus far been sealed from the public. The hearing, overseen by Judge I’Ashea L. Myles, took place at the Davidson County Chancery Court in Nashville, comes just over a year after three young children and three school staff members were killed during the shooting at Covenant, a private Christian school in Nashville. 

During the hearing, Lora Fox, an attorney for the city of Nashville, indicated that the city’s police were still investigating the shooting, including probing whether the transgender-identifying killer had any accomplices. The shooter was shot dead by authorities on the scene of the crime, and there has thus far been no indication that anybody else was involved.

Notably, Fox stated that Nashville police expected to wrap up their investigation by July 1. Fox said the police are prepared to release most of their investigative file, excluding some details about school security and diagrams of the school. When questioned by Myles, she also said that she believed that the killer’s journal, which was found in the car she left at the school, would be able to be released to the public with some redactions.

The debate during the hearing pinned on interpretation of the Tennessee Public Records Act and the Tennessee Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights. Lawyers for groups advocating for the documents to be released say there is compelling public interest for the public to view the killer’s writings.

“The only question before the court is whether there are any exemptions that preclude public access to these records,” said Doug Pierce, a lawyer for the National Police Association, one of the groups represented in the lawsuit. “There is a presumption of openness. Those parties have the burden of proof here. The statutes should be construed to allow the public access to records.”

A lawyer for Judicial Watch, which is representing one of the groups in court, argued that Metro Nashville needs to provide a more detailed list of materials obtained from the shooter, as well as specific reasons why they’re exempted from release.

Lawyers for both Covenant School and Covenant Presbyterian Church, where the school is located, argued against the release of the writings. The church asked for more limited redactions pertaining to security while the school requested a broad ban on any of the killer’s writings being released.

Peter Klett, a lawyer for the school, argued that releasing the shooter’s writings could trigger more hatred and violence toward children and Christians. “Hateful words of the shooter certainly may have an audience in the general public,” he said, arguing against their release.

Limited portions of the alleged manifesto were leaked by commentator Steven Crowder, who obtained three photographs of the writings. The pages included racial slurs against white children as well as an itinerary for “death day,” which articulated the shooter’s intent to have a “high death count.”

Brent Leatherwood, a parent of several children who attend the Covenant School and the head of the Southern Baptist denomination’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, briefly spoke with reporters outside the courtroom after the Tuesday hearing. Leatherwood said the “deranged ramblings” of the shooter did not qualify as public records.

He said the lawyers seeking the release of the writings acted like they were representing the shooter because their desire to release the writings would give her notoriety.

The case is expected to resume on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. when the court is expected to hear arguments from Covenant school parents and rebuttals from the groups seeking the release of the documents. It is unclear when Myles will issue her decision on whether to release the writings or not.

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