The Nashville shooter’s manifesto becomes an increasingly hot point of interest as groups, such as the National Rifle Association and National Police Association, battle with Covenant School families in court over the public release of Audrey Hale's writings. Litigation over the manifesto continues to intensify as state representatives call for its release and law enforcement officials struggle with determining a motive behind the attack, drawing up only assumptions about what drove Hale’s bloodlust.
After 28-year-old, transgender, Audrey Hale was promptly neutralized for killing 6 people at private Christian school The Covenant School, investigators scrambled to determine a motive. However, authorities have struggled to pin down the exact reason why Hale gunned down three adults and three children on March 27th. Police authorities believe that Hale’s “resentment” of having to attend the school in her earlier years might’ve been an influential factor in her choice to stage the attack there.
In early reports, upon investigating her personal objects, police found a “manifesto” along with a detailed map planning out the attack. In a list of items released by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, a suicide note, three folders and 19 journals were acquired. Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake stated in news conferences, “We have a manifesto, we have some writings that we’re going over that pertain to this date, the actual incident…We have a map drawn out of how this was all going to take place.” However, later reports describe Hale’s journal writings as “ramblings” and “indicative of a mental health struggle.”
An aspect of Hale’s character that has been highlighted as a possible factor in the shooting was the fact that Hale was transgender. Authorities are still determining whether Hale’s identity as a transgender person was a prominent factor in her motive. When asked if Hale’s transgender identity is possibly connected to the motive, Drake said: “There is some theory to that. We’re investigating all the leads and once we know exactly, we will let you know.”
Due to assumptions about Hale’s motive being purely speculative, calls have begun for immediate release of Hale’s “manifesto” to see if it will clarify or link the motive to any of the aforementioned assumptions.
Regardless of the nature of Hale’s writings, the journals haven’t been released to the public.
Fox News reported that Hale’s parents were originally in possession of the manifesto until, according to later reports, ownership was transferred to the families of Covenant School students. However, official control of the manifesto belongs to the Metro Nashville Police Department, continuing as evidence in the ongoing investigation. It’s been claimed that the FBI and Metro Nashville Police Department are responsible for withholding the release of the manifesto. The Metro Nashville Police had reportedly denied open records requests, prompting numerous lawsuits demanding the release of the writings.
According to the New York Post, “The suits were filed separately by Tennessee Firearms Association Inc. alongside former Tennessee-area Sheriff James Hammond and the National Rifle Association and by private investigator Clara Brewer.” The plaintiffs argue that the release of the manifesto could offer insight into the mindset of the killer, granting beneficial knowledge in areas of public safety.
66 Tennessee state House Republican Caucus members signed a letter calling for the release of the manifesto by the Metro Nashville Police. The signing of the letter comes after Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee cited the shooting when urging for new gun-control legislation. According to the Post, state representatives see the writings as important materials to consider before creating new legislation. State representatives emphasize a need to understand the “totality of Hale’s circumstances”, which would be appeased by answering their call for the release of Hale’s writings, medical records and toxicology reports.
However, the families of the Covenant school moved to intervene in the litigation, acting to prevent the release of Hale’s writings into public record. In May, Chancery Court Judge I’Ashea Myles ruled that the families had a right to intervene in the case, and now the families are weighing in on the case.
Lawyers representing the Covenant families are arguing in court against the release of Hale’s manifesto, expressing the families’ interests to prevent the writings from becoming public. The families fear that the release of the manifesto would do more harm than good; “Attorney Eric Osborne, who says he’s representing 100 of the 112 families at the Christian elementary school, told the court on Monday parents fear the killers’ manifesto could lead to another massacre,” as the New York Post states.
Yet, doubt has been cast on the value of the “manifesto” in the investigation by the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation David Rausch. According to NBC, Rausch “told attendees at a Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association meeting last week that the handwritten journals were ramblings, and the entries made no mention of specific political, religious or social issues, reported the CBS affiliate WTVF in Nashville.”
In fact, according to Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron, Hale’s “manifesto” is no longer referred to as such among authorities and instead as writings or journals.
Ultimately the choice about whether or not Hale’s writings and journals will be released will be decided by a Tennessee judge, concluding the numerous lawsuits filed against the city demanding the release of Hale’s “manifesto”.
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