As the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD) continues to withhold release of the writings of the Covenant School shooter, Audrey Hale, attorneys in court last week and in recent court filings allude to what could possibly be inside the writings left behind by her, as well as who may have viewed those documents already.
In the days around the shooting, MNPD Chief John Drake told reporters officers had found multiple writings from Hale at her home in a south Nashville neighborhood, a quick drive from the school.
The MNPD, FBI, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), and Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Bureau removed large amounts of evidence from the home the afternoon of the shooting, photos and video from media showed.
Drake said writings included detailed maps and a “manifesto,” although MNPD quickly changed the terminology when referring to what they collected to instead use the term “writings.”
A list of items seized at the home of Hale included a large volume of memoirs, journals and a suicide note. More than two dozen such writings were found in the home, according to an Inventory of Seized Property list.
Journals and folders also found at the home included the subjects of “school shootings” and “firearms courses” under Hale’s bed.
Chief of Police John Drake delivers a press briefing at the entrance of The Covenant School, on March 28, 2023, in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Seth Herald/Getty Images)
MNPD has denied several requests from individuals, organizations, and media, including The Epoch Times, citing a Tennessee court exemption.
This rule allows public records requests to be denied amid ongoing investigations, and although Hale was killed by police at the school on the day of the rampage, MNPD officials have said in court filings they are “unsure” if she colluded with anyone else.
Attorney Speculates in Court
Douglas Pierce, attorney for the National Police Association and Tennessee resident Clata Brewer—who are just two of many parties suing for MNPD to release the documents—insinuated in court last week that MNPD may have made their Rule 16 argument moot because parents already seem to know what’s in the writings they are trying to prevent the release of.
“I want to point out what document we’re talking about here because that’s very critical,” he said on Monday.
“The document we are talking about was not a document that ever belonged to any of these alleged interveners. It is not a document that they ever created. This is some third-party document, but you do get the distinct impression from what has been filed … they all know what is in that document.”
He added his belief is that the writings had been “made available to [parents] either overtly or just told what’s in it,” which is not what the rest of the public has had access to.
Public Musings by Elected Officials
Pierce, in a written filing the week prior, also cited statements made by a Franklin, Tennessee, alderwoman that indicated the shooting may have been a result of a love triangle.
“Another important reason to allow immediate access to the requested public records is to eliminate the divisive speculation that is presumably worse than the truth,” he wrote.
“There has already been much speculative public discussion…Although many people may doubt this elected official’s assertion, with each passing day, more and more people will believe that reason or some other false reason which is even more upsetting than the truth.”
The flag atop the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville at half-staff, on March 29, 2023. (Chase Smith/The Epoch Times)
Pierce was referring to comments made by Alderwoman Gabrielle Hanson on a podcast and radio show that claimed inside knowledge of a supposed “love triangle” as a motive behind the assault on the school. MNPD has said those comments were unfounded.
For further context not mentioned in Pierce’s writings, another elected official, this time from Nashville, said in comments to the New York Post that release of the documents could prove “astronomically dangerous.”
She added that a high-ranking MNPD official may have given her insight into the writings.
“What I was told is, her manifesto was a blueprint on total destruction, and it was so, so detailed at the level of what she had planned,” Council Member Courtney Johnston told the outlet.
“I personally don’t want to know the depths to which her psychosis reached … When I’m told by an MNPD high-ranking official that it keeps him up at night…”
In an email exchange with The Epoch Times on April 25, Johnston responded to the question of whether or not the New York Post’s comments were authentic by stating, “Not particularly on a lot of it and no on some.”
Asking if she sought to clarify which statements may not be accurate, she asked for a list of questions. A follow-up email last week was not responded to.
As of June 1, the New York Post article had not been corrected, and statements attributed to her were still available on the outlet’s website. The New York Post article also attributes to Johnston that the “FBI has already ruled the manifesto would not be released any time soon.”
MNPD Says Small Group Has Seen Documents
In a press conference just after a hearing last week, Metro Legal Director Wallace Dietz told reporters the only people that had seen the documents provided to the court, which included journals found in Hale’s car as well as a suicide note, were Metro attorneys, MNPD, the TBI, the FBI, and the judge.
The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County Courthouse and City Hall as seen from 2nd Ave. N, on March 29, 2023. (Chase Smith/The Epoch Times)
“These documents are in the hands of the TBI and the FBI,” he said.
The Epoch Times asked Dietz in an email following his press conference if the fact the document was in the hands of the TBI and the FBI was conflicting with what an MNPD official told The Epoch Times on April 28. Then, a spokeswoman stated the FBI was merely “assisting,” but MNPD was the “lead,” and the release of Hale’s writings would “come through [MNPD].”
“There is no conflict,” Dietz said in an email to The Epoch Times. “MNPD has the lead. The TBI and FBI also have the documents–but MNPD has the lead.”
Speaking off the record, a handful of Tennessee legislators have also viewed the documents through a law allowing those elected officials to examine investigative material, although they are required to maintain confidentiality.