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Metro legal looking at how images were released from Covenant documents

the covenant school
Posted at 1:42 PM, Nov 06, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nashville Mayor Freddie O'Connell said he and his offices were looking into the unauthorized release of three images from the Covenant school shooter's documents.

This comes after conservative radio host Steven Crowder released the documents from The Covenant School shooter on Monday.

“I have directed Wally Dietz, Metro’s Law Director, to initiate an investigation into how these images could have been released," O'Connell said. "That investigation may involve local, state, and federal authorities. I am deeply concerned with the safety, security, and well-being of the Covenant families and all Nashvillians who are grieving."

Metro Nashville Police Department authorities said at they are aware of the situation, but they were unaware of the veracity of the documents. NewsChannel 5 hasn't heard directly from MNPD since.

Three children and three adults died in The Covenant School shooting. The shooter also died after being confronted by police.

"I have never seen the so-called manifesto and neither have my clients," said attorney David Raybin, who represents the shooter's family. "We did not leak it and we are in no position to authenticate what was released. Because of pending litigation, it is now inappropriate to make any further comment."

What are the images of?

The release of three images of the Covenant school shooter's documents were in notebooks, with one of them showing someone's hand in a purple glove. Another image shows a Metro Nashville Police Department SUV in the background.

Two of the images released show different pieces of notebook paper titled "Death Day."

One piece of the papers described a schedule for the shooter, which doesn't match up to the times that happened on March 27. One of the sticky notes on the schedule included the note of a lunchtime. The other notebook paper titled "Death Day" had a doodle on the top of a gun pointing at a target. The shooter writes about the nerves and emotions of committing the mass shooting, noting the hope that the victims didn't expect the shooter.

The last piece of paper is from Feb. 3, where the shooter described their perspective about children who went to private schools and the desire to kill them. The three different pieces of paper were signed by the shooter.

What happened on the day of the shooting?

Day of the shooting, the shooter sent an Instagram message to a former middle school basketball teammate.

The shooter said the plan was to die by suicide and that teammate would see it on the news. In the messages the teammate provided to NewsChannel 5, the shooter said that the former teammate would have to see them again in another life. The shooter told the teammate about no longer wanting to live and the need to die.

When police searched the shooter's car and home the day of the shooting, they collected dozens of items including guns, a suicide note, journals, and more. It's not clear when, if ever, those documents would make it into the hands of the families. Right now all the documents are in police custody.

Where are the documents?

Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said earlier in 2023 that the department would release The Covenant School shooter documents if ordered by the court to do so.

Metro's legal attorney Lora B. Fox said the city would have to address the release of documents at some point.

"I don’t represent the school or the church," she said in mid-October. "We have a conflict we are taking because at the end of the investigation under existing case law the criminal investigation becomes a public record. But they should be heard."

As of now, the documents are part of a pending lawsuit, including five different parties. Most recently, the court granted motions for The Covenant School, Covenant Presbyterian Church and families to intervene in the discussion over the release of documents written by the shooter. While they will not be responsible for the final decision, their opinion will be allowed in the legal discussion over the matter.

In the case, MNPD officers have filed declarations about the case and that analyzing the shooter's documents could take up to a year.

The declarations by MNPD Assistant Chief Mike Hagar and Lt. Brent Gibson said that police were still actively investigating the mass shooting that left six people dead in addition to the shooter at The Covenant School. The two said even though the shooter died the investigation doesn't "automatically close."

Where is the court case?

NewsChannel 5 has covered this case since the first day. A lot has happened.

This summer, The Covenant School parents filed statements regarding the shooter's writings, in hopes of demonstrating the harm that would come from releasing the shooter's documents. Of the statements, two came from parents who lost their children that day.

Five different groups have asked the court to release all the documents Metro Police obtained from the shooter. All five — the Tennessee Firearms Association, National Police Association, the Tennessee Star, The Tennessean newspaper, and Sen. Todd Gardenhire — have argued continuously for the release of all the documents. And those petitioners were the reason why the case went to an appeals court.

Metro Police said the shooter had several journals detailing plans for the shooting and had been planning the attack for months. So far, police have indicated it would take a year to analyze all of the writings and documents from the shooter. As of this summer, the writings — still in possession of the Metro Nashville Police Department — would go into the newly established Covenant Children's Trust.

A three-judge panel in the appeals court is now working on a decision on whether Covenant parents have a say in the case.