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Parents of Nashville shooter want manifesto to go to victims' families

When police searched the shooter's car and home the day of the shooting, they collected dozens of things including guns, a suicide note and journals.
An entrance to The Covenant School in Nashville
Posted at 9:32 AM, Jun 10, 2023

There were more legal maneuverings in court Thursday surrounding the writings of Nashville's Covenant School shooter.

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.

When police searched the shooter's car and home the day of the shooting, they collected dozens of things including guns, a suicide note, journals, and more.

Originally, Thursday's court date was supposed to be a show cause hearing. But instead focused on whether the judge should issue a stay on her previous order granting the Covenant parents the right to have a say in whether the shooter's writings should be released to the public. This comes after some attorneys appealed her decision, and that case is pending.

In a surprise move, an attorney for the parents of the shooter told the court the family would like to hand over all rights and ownership of the shooter's writings to the children of the school.

Attorney David Raybin — who is representing the shooter's parents — argues the shooter's writings are the property of the parents and they should get to decide what happens to them. If the judge agrees, the victims' families could theoretically decide what happens to the writings. If that request is granted, the writings would likely never be made public.

"Obviously, what we just witnessed today was extraordinary by any definition," said Brent Leatherwood, a Covenant parent spokesperson. "You should know that the parents and the families have asked our attorneys to leave no stone unturned as we pursue our objective to keep all of these writings out of the public domain and anything that might inspire future attacks on other communities."

Critics say that would mean the public would never know the motive behind the crime.

"I would read that as another legal maneuver to try to prevent the writings, which are evidence collected in a police case from becoming public," said Deborah Fisher, executive director for the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. "When they collect evidence in a case whether it’s surveillance video from a convenience store or documents that might support a case, eventually, that evidence will become public. Let me just pause there and say we are still in the midst of deep grief, and that’s not just us who are Covenant parents of Covenant families — it’s the entire Nashville community."

The Covenant School in Nashville.

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Attorneys for the five groups argue the writings are already in police custody and therefore already public record.

"If the government is in possession, then it’s publicly inspectable," said John Harris with the Tennessee Firearms Association.

Both the Covenant school and the church, along with the parents at the school, do not want the writings released because they worry it could lead to another school shooting.

"No one in the legal community or outside of it, should doubt the resolve of our parents and our families in this matter," Leatherwood said.

NewsChannel 5 will update this as soon as a decision on the stay is issued.

This story was originally published by Emily West and Alexandra Koehn at Scripps News Nashville.