Nashville investigates possible leak of Covenant shooting images

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Nashville mayor’s office on Monday asked the city’s law department to investigate the possible unauthorized release of the writings of the gunman, who acted indiscriminately open fire at the Nashville private school in March, killing three children and three adults before they were fatally shot by police.

Mayor Freddie O’Connell made the statement shortly after conservative radio host Steven Crowder posted three images of Audrey Hale’s writings from the day of the shooting.

Metro Nashville police said Monday that the images were not “MNPD crime scene images” and that they were cooperating with the Nashville Legal Department in the investigation.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation refused to confirm the authentication.

Authorities have not disclosed any of Hale’s diaries or writings collected after the March 27 shooting at Covenant School in Nashville. According to court documents, the shooter left behind at least 20 diaries, a suicide note and memoirs.

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MNPD initially said they would release the documents, but only after the investigation was officially closed – which could have taken months. In response, groups seeking the documents filed a lawsuit arguing that since the suspect was dead, the records should be released immediately.

The police then changed course and said that because of the lawsuits they would wait for the court’s direction on whether Hale’s writings should be published.

“I am deeply concerned for the safety and well-being of the Covenant families and all grieving Nashvillians,” O’Connell said.

Nashville Legal Director Wally Dietz confirmed in a statement Monday that he would launch the investigation, but said he could not immediately confirm or deny the authenticity of the documents due to limited information about the “possible leak.”

The Associated Press also has not confirmed the authenticity of the documents released Monday. The AP is one of several groups that have requested the documents but are not involved in the lawsuit to obtain them.

Attorneys representing Covenant School families have repeatedly said they have not seen Hale’s writings.

Brent Leatherwood, whose three children attend Covenant School, urged Crowder and anyone amplifying the images online to “just be human” and stop looking for clicks or platforming. Speaking to reporters, Leatherwood said the writings had the potential to encourage further attacks.

“How many people have to be senselessly killed to get clicks?” he said.

Leatherwood said he received calls today from parents upset and concerned that he even viewed the images online: “The damage done today is already significant, and I fear it will only get worse.”

In May, a chancery court judge ruled that the group involved more than 100 Covenant families could intervene in the event of. The families say they don’t want the police records made public, arguing the recordings would only cause more pain and potentially spark copycats.

An appeals court is now weighing whether that judge acted within the law.

Police said Hale did it I planned the massacre for months. Hale fired 152 shots during the attack before he was killed by police. Hale was receiving medical treatment for an unknown “emotional disorder,” police said. However, authorities have not disclosed any connection between that concern and the shooting.

Further complicating the Covenant case is the fact that Hale, who police say was “assigned female at birth,” appears to have begun identifying as a transgender man – prompting right-wing commentators, politicians and other figures to spread false claims about a rise in transgender mass shootings and to suggest that the fight for transgender rights is radicalizing people. Authorities’ refusal to release Hale’s writings has fueled further speculation and conspiracy theories about what they might reveal about Hale’s motives or influences.

The three children killed in the shooting were Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney. The three adults were Katherine Koonce, 60, the principal, janitor Mike Hill, 61, and 61-year-old substitute teacher Cynthia Peak. ___

Associated Press writer Adrian Sainz contributed to this report from Memphis, Tennessee.

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