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Nashville police chief confirms authenticity of leaked Covenant school shooter’s writings

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Nashville Police Chief John Drake says he’s “disturbed” over the unauthorized release of writings from the shooter who killed six people, including three children, at The Covenant School in March.

Drake confirmed the authenticity of the writings in a statement late Monday evening.

“This police department is extremely serious about the investigation to identify the person responsible,” Drake said.

Earlier Monday, conservative commentator Steven Crowder released what he said were three images of Audrey Hale’s writings from the day of the March 27 shooting.

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Brent Leatherwood, a representative of Covenant School families, speaks during a news conference Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. Leaked images of writings of the shooter who indiscriminately opened fire at the private Nashville school in March were released by a media outlet earlier in the day. Leatherwood said the writings have the ability to inspire further attacks. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)Nashville investigating after possible leak of Covenant shooting imagesFILE - Air travelers make their way through the Nashville International Airport, July 25, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. A panel of judges ruled Tuesday, Oct. 31, that it was unconstitutional for Tennessee lawmakers to pass a state takeover of Nashville International Airport's board without approval from city officials or voters, delivering the latest blow in court to state Republicans' series of attempts to rein in Democratic-leaning Nashville's autonomy this year. (AP Photo/George Walker IV, File)Judges rule state takeover of Nashville airport’s board violates Tennessee ConstitutionFILE - Nashville police gather at the scene after a Metro Nashville police officer shot and killed Grammy-winning sound engineer Mark Capps while at his home to arrest him on warrants, Jan. 5, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. Capps' wife filed a lawsuit against the city of Nashville and Police Officer Ashley Coon on Monday, Oct. 30, claiming that Coon used “excessive, unreasonable force by shooting and killing Capps when he was not posing an active threat of imminent harm.” It also claims the city is to blame for Capps' death because it allowed the Metro Nashville Police Department to operate with a “culture of fear, violence, and impunity.” (Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean via AP, File)Wife of Grammy winner killed by Nashville police sues city over ‘excessive, unreasonable force’

The news quickly sparked calls for an investigation as local and state leaders initially declined to verify the authenticity of the writings. Meanwhile, Metro Nashville Police Department has stated that the photos were not “crime scene images.”

The fight over the release of Hale’s writing has remained a long, drawn out battle for months. Ever since it was discovered that Hale, who was assigned female at birth, seemed to have begun identifying as a transgender man, right-wing commentators, politicians and other figures have elevated false claims of a rise in transgender mass shooters and accused local authorities of intentionally wanting to block information surrounding Hale’s motives.

Nashville police initially said they would release the documents, but only after an 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 immediately released.

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The shooter left behind at least 20 journals, a suicide note and a memoir, according to court filings.

Because of the lawsuits, police have since said they would await the direction of the court on whether to release Hale’s writings.

That lawsuit is ongoing, with many of the families connected to the Covenant school fighting the publication of the documents over fear that the release would cause more pain and possibly spark copycats.

“This action showed a total disregard for Covenant families, as well as the court system, which has control of the shooter’s journals at the present time due to litigation filed earlier this year,” Drake said. “It is now pending in Davidson County Chancery Court and the Tennessee Court of Appeals. We are not at liberty to release the journals until the courts rule.”

The three children who were killed in the shooting were Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney, all 9 years old. The three adults were Katherine Koonce, 60, the head of the school, custodian Mike Hill, 61, and 61-year-old substitute teacher Cynthia Peak.

Gov. Bill Lee said he has been “calling for clarity” around the Covenant shooter’s writings for months, saying in a statement that he’s been “frustrated” by the lack of transparency.

“The state is not involved with the investigation and has no legal authority over these documents, however, we will continue to push for more information and urge MNPD to address the horrific pages published today,” Lee said.