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Breaking News Alert This Week In Lawfare Land: 'Deadly Force'

11 Months After Nashville Christian School Attack, Police Are Still Hiding Trans Shooter’s Manifesto

The litigation boils down to the public’s right to know what makes the mind behind a mass shooting tick. 

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It’s been nearly a year since Audrey Elizabeth Hale — a 28-year-old woman pretending to be a man — stormed into The Covenant School, a Christian school in Nashville, and murdered six people, including three 9-year-olds.

It’s very likely that because Hale described herself as transgender, local and federal law enforcement have refused to turn over the multitudinous writings that made up the Covenant killer’s manifesto. Some Freedom of Information Act advocates contend the manifesto would have been made public long ago if Hale, who liked to call herself Aiden, were indeed a white male who fit the accomplice media’s narrative of usual suspects. 

As the Washington Times reported in December:

The person who killed three 9-year-old children and three adults at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville this spring left behind at least 20 journals, a suicide note and a memoir, according to court filings. The writings have been the object of intense speculation and an open-records battle, with several groups suing to force Nashville officials to release them to the public.

I know about that last part as well as anyone. I’m a plaintiff in two of the lawsuits. 

The litigation, which has drawn interest from everyone from Republican presidential candidates to leftist activists, boils down to the public’s right to know what makes the mind behind a mass shooting tick. 

Suspect Claim

In early May, Star News Digital Media Inc., the parent company of the Star News Network, filed a lawsuit in federal court demanding the Federal Bureau of Investigation turn over Hale’s writings. I was the national political editor for Star News at the time and joined company CEO and Editor-in-Chief Michael Patrick Leahy in the complaint. 

Just days later, the national conservative news outlet — with Leahy and me as plaintiffs — joined a state lawsuit asking the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD) to turn over Hale’s manifesto.

The lawsuits are fighting against the same claim. The FBI and MNPD insist they can hide Hale’s manifesto from the public because they say there’s an ongoing investigation. How the law enforcement agencies can make such a claim borders on the outlandish. Hale, a former Covenant student who on March 27, 2023, fatally shot three staff members and three third-graders at the private Christian school, was killed by Nashville police some 14 minutes after she began her deadly errand. Police at the time said Hale acted alone; she had no accomplices. 

“Audrey Hale is deceased. There is no ongoing investigation of Audrey Hale,” the state lawsuit argues. 

At one point last spring, a Nashville law enforcement official told The Tennessee Star and other news outlets, “The investigation has advanced to the point that the writings from the Covenant shooter are being reviewed for public release. That process is underway and will take a little while.” 

But as soon as the lawsuits started being filed, MNPD retreated from that position. 

“Covenant investigation update: Due to pending litigation filed this week, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department has been advised by counsel to hold in abeyance the release of records related to the shooting at The Covenant School pending orders or direction of the court,” Metro Nashville Police tweeted.

Still, even after lawyering up, an MNPD official told a federal court he’d be OK with at least partially releasing the documents.

“Ideally, the records related to the ongoing criminal investigation should remain confidential until the conclusion of the investigation or any resulting criminal case,” Lt. Brent Gibson wrote in a declaration. “However, MNPD believes that releasing a redacted version of certain of the shooter’s writings would not impede the investigation.”

MNPD also took a lot of heat from Covenant Presbyterian Church, its private elementary school, and parents of the students who endured the attack. They hired high-priced attorneys to demand that police lock the records away forever. Understandably, the intervenors in the litigation argued the records could re-traumatize the victims and their families. First Amendment experts argue that blocking the manifesto’s release would erode open-records laws and deny the public the ability to help protect itself from future attacks. 

Narrative Enforcement 

Law enforcement officials, the FBI in particular, have in the past jumped to release similar writings of mass shooters — those that fit a particular narrative. As the lawsuit against the FBI asserts, the agency “is proud of its history of releasing manifestos. In 1995, FBI famously released Ted Kaczynski’s manifesto to The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Penthouse magazine. FBI brags about this history on its website.”

More recently, as the lawsuit notes, in October 2022, 19-year-old Orlando Harris killed two people and injured seven others in St. Louis. The FBI investigated the incident with other law enforcement authorities. CNN obtained a copy of and reported on the details of his manifesto the day after the shootings. Harris, the corporate media headlines screamed, used an “AR-15 style rifle.” 

My Federalist colleague Jordan Boyd noted last month how quickly a mass shooting and the shooter escape national media attention when the killer has a history of flirting with “Democrat gender ideology.” Boyd cited myriad examples, including a school shooting that rocked a small Iowa town. 

“The press is known for lengthy coverage glamorizing killers, inspiring copycat acts, and using shootings to push gun control. When covering tragedies that contradict leftist claims, however, Democrats and their cronies in the corrupt media quickly go radio silent,” she wrote.

More recently, the usual suspects seemed to quickly lose interest in the shooter at Lakewood Church in Houston. Police, as of Tuesday, still weren’t releasing many details about 36-year-old Genesse Ivonne Moreno, who reportedly used an “AR-style” (emblazoned with a “Free Palestine” sticker) in injuring a 47-year-old man before being shot dead by two off-duty law enforcement officers at Joel Osteen’s megachurch. Maybe that’s because Moreno used male and female aliases. 

Silence Police

Or maybe it has something to do with the Biden Department of Justice’s shadowy “Community Relations Service” (CRS), as I reported for the Star News Network in May. The quiet unit, which bills itself as “America’s peacemakers,” was “involved in the George Zimmerman case, with evidence to suggest the shadowy unit helped organize rallies over the self-defense shooting of black teen Trayvon Martin. The CRS was involved in Ferguson, the Baltimore-Six case, and others.”

In the Covenant killer case, the legal battle over Hale’s manifesto continues to grind on in the courts. A recent motion to intervene alleges the killer may have been motivated by an “alleged childhood coverup at the school,” according to The Tennessee Star.  

The problem is, it’s hard to say precisely what spurred Hale to murder innocent people because law enforcement officials are trampling on Freedom of Information laws. 

In November, we got a peak at Hale’s mindset when conservative commentator and comedian Steven Crowder published three photocopies of the killer’s journals. The writings included racist, leftist rants about The Covenant School community.  

On one page, Hale wrote, “Wanna kill all you little crackers!! Bunch of little f-ggots w/your white privaleges [sic].”

MNPD officials investigated and unsuccessfully sought to punish the leaker in the police department.  

There’s presumably much more in Hale’s voluminous writings that would explain why she did what she did and, more so, how the school, the community, and the country could better protect themselves from similar violence. 

Interestingly, as the FBI and local law enforcement officials fight to hide Hale’s manifesto, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs recently announced that later this month, Metro Nashville Police Captain Steven Bowers will hold a webinar for law enforcement to “review factors that may have contributed to the violence, and share lessons learned on effective prevention, response, and recovery strategies.” 

There’s a disconnect here. 

“The federal government does not get to pick and choose whether they release information that lawfully belongs to the public,” Lucas Vebber, deputy counsel for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, the Milwaukee law firm representing me in the federal lawsuit, said when the complaint was filed. “Our efforts are critical to holding our federal government accountable and promoting transparency.”


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