Lawmakers push for release of Nashville shooter’s manifesto

  • The manifesto of the Nashville school shooter remains sealed
  • Some Tennessee lawmakers are calling for its release
  • Families of the victims do not want it to be shared

(NewsNation) — Monday marked 56 days since the Covenant school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, and those following the case still know little about the shooter’s motivation since their manifesto remains under seal.

Tennessee state Sen. Jack Johnson says the public has a compelling interest in — and a right to know — what was in the mind of the someone “capable of perpetrating such a horrific act.”

In March, authorities say Audrey Hale opened fire on Covenant School, leaving three children and three adults dead. Early into the investigation, police announced they recovered a manifesto belonging to Hale.

“We have a manifesto. We have some writings that we’re going over that pertain to this day, the actual incident. We have a map drawn out of how this was all going to take place,” Metro Police Chief John Drake said at the time.

One month passed after the tragedy, and the contents of the manifesto remained a secret. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said the documents would be released soon, in a tweet April 27.

“The Covenant shooting was a tragedy beyond comprehension, and Tennesseans need clarity,” Lee tweeted. “We’ve been in touch with the Nashville Police Department, and today, Chief Drake assured me that documents and information regarding the shooter will be released to the public very soon.”

Now, Lee is calling for a special session on public safety, which has prompted Johnson and dozens of other state lawmakers to push for the release of the manifesto.

“Our governor has indicated that he intends to call us into special session (…) to contemplate legislation to try to prevent something like this from happening again,” Johnson said in part during an interview with NewsNation host Leland Vittert.

Johnson said he’s not sure of any specific reason why the manifesto is under seal but believes it’s important for lawmakers to have a full picture of the investigation before working on new policy.

“We need to know what is in those documents, especially if we’re going to try to contemplate public policy,” Johnson said. “When we come into a special session to consider bills that could become laws, I think we need to know what is in those documents. So I’ve called on them to release those documents.”

Parents of the shooting victims weighed in on the matter last week. Attorneys representing the families said, in a legal brief, they do not want police to release the shooter’s manifesto since they believe no good will come from sharing the writings, which they think could be dangerous.

“No one was more traumatized or has suffered more than the families of the victims and of the survivors of the Covenant school tragedy and no one can claim a remotely similar interest in whether the writings of the shooter should be released,” the brief read.

Johnson said his heart breaks for the families of those involved, but that the manifesto should still be unveiled or police should provide a detailed explanation of why it is under seal.

“It was a horrific tragedy that occurred on March 27, and I certainly recognize that and we want to be respectful of that,” Johnson said. “But at the same time, we do want to make sure that we’re doing everything in the state of Tennessee to make sure this type of horrific event doesn’t happen again in the future. We can’t fully do our jobs without knowing what was in the mind of this particular individual.”

The families asked at the least for the manifesto not to be revealed until at least June 8 so the “children of Covenant school might finish the school year in peace.”

The Tennessee governor’s special session is expected to take place Aug. 21.

On Balance with Leland Vittert

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