NASHVILLE, Tenn. (NewsNation) — GOP Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy called on the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department and other Tennessee officials to release the Covenant School shooter’s manifesto at a news conference Monday.
He started off the press conference with a moment of silence for the victims.
“Release the manifesto. Speak the truth,” Ramaswamy said. “The hard times are the times where we must most openly speak that truth.”
In March, a 28-year-old shot and killed three children and three adults at a Christian elementary school in Nashville. Early on in their investigation, police announced they had recovered writings they described as a manifesto.
While some, like Ramaswamy, has said it needs to be shown to the public, parents of the children who died have been fighting to keep those writings from being revealed to the public.
There’s been intense debate over this manifesto and why the police haven’t released it, including whether it has to do with the fact that police previously said the shooter identified as transgender. Ramaswamy also made similar claims to reporters Monday.
Many high-profile conservatives have pointed to the reported shooter’s gender identity in the aftermath of the shooting. However, as organizations like the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a non-profit advocating for stricter gun regulation point out, the vast majority of mass shootings in the U.S. are committed by non-trans men, Reuters reported.
Early on, police said they wouldn’t be releasing the writings. Then they pivoted, saying they’re not releasing them pending an ongoing investigation.
The FBI had reviewed the writings and a number of lawsuits were filed to force the police to release the documents.
Back in May, 66 Republican lawmakers sent a letter to the chief of the Nashville Metro Police requesting “the release of the perpetrator’s writings as well as relevant medical records and toxicology reports.”
Ramaswamy said that without knowing the content of these writings, it would not be possible to find solutions to prevent other shootings.
“We’re not going to get to the right answer unless we get to the truth,” Ramaswamy said.
Ramaswamy was supposed to be joined by two leading conservative voices — Candace Owens and Shawn Ryan — for the press conference. While Owens was there, Ryan dropped out, citing concerns from local community members about the dangers of releasing the manifesto.
“After the initial acceptance to attend and support the release of the manifesto, several family and community members directly connected with the Covenant School reached out to Shawn Ryan to express their desire to keep the manifesto concealed for various reasons,” Ryan’s team told NewsNation in a statement.
Critics of Ramaswamy’s pressure to release the manifesto say the move could inspire copycat shootings.
“One thing law enforcement cares about is really making sure we don’t have copycat findings. And the problem with releasing motivation is we don’t ever want to sensationalize slaughter. We don’t want to glorify grievance,” legal analyst Wendy Patrick said.
Ramaswamy acknowledged these concerns, saying he doesn’t want copycats either.
“It would be perfectly reasonable for the police to redact any sections of this manifesto that lay out specific plans, that lay out specific premeditated plots on details of execution that could be copied by another individual,” he said. “But what we do need to know is this killer’s motives. This killer’s psychological state of mind.”
If, as the parents allege, the shooter had mental health problems, Ramaswamy said there needs to be an “honest conversation” about institutionalizing people with mental illness.
“We need to have a conversation about removing those people from their community, as we used to in prior decades when we had psychiatric institutions,” Ramaswamy said. “That’s a difficult conversation, but one that I think we’re long overdue to have in this country.”
This story has been updated to correct the religious denomination of the school.
Cassie Buchman contributed to this article.