A day after three pages purported to have come from the manifesto of Covenant School shooter Audrey Hale appeared online, Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Connell is calling the potential leak a “violation” of the victims’ families as the city investigates whether the leak was “illegal.”
“Our first thought was let’s make sure that we continue to focus on connecting the families that have been traumatized to resources that can help with that,” he told reporters Tuesday. “And then also, let’s make sure that we have an independent review of how these materials, which are under seal right now, could have found their way outside the legal process.”
He added that he could still not comment on the veracity of the images, which are photographs of pages of a notebook.
The Metro Nashville Police Department said Monday they could not confirm or deny the legitimacy of the photos, which appear to have been taken in the Covenant School parking lot, but said they were “not MNPD crime scene images.”
NASHVILLE AUTHORITIES ‘AWARE’ OF PURPORTED LEAK OF CHRISTIAN SCHOOL SHOOTER’S MANIFESTO
Nashville police shot Hale on the second floor of the school after the killer gunned down three 9-year-olds and three adults on the morning of March 27.
Shortly after the shooting, they said the massacre appeared to be “calculated and planned” and they recovered a manifesto in the killer’s car. They also found about two dozen journals at Hale’s home – including notes on prior mass shootings kept under the shooter’s bed.
There are a lot of public records that are embarrassing, but that’s not a legal reason to prevent their disclosure.
The city and its police department are currently being sued over the delay in releasing the manifesto and other documents.
NASHVILLE KILLER AUDREY HALE SLEPT WITH JOURNALS ON SCHOOL SHOOTINGS UNDER BED, COURT DOCS REVEAL
Doug Pierce, the Tennessee attorney representing one of the plaintiffs, the National Police Association, said the process could drag on for years.
But Neama Rahmani, a Los Angeles-based trial attorney and former federal prosecutor, said the wishes of the school and of the victims’ families likely do not trump public records laws at the state or federal level.
“Government agencies often overuse the ‘active investigation’ exception to a Freedom of Information request to wrongfully deny access to materials,” he told Fox News Digital. “There is a presumption that government records are public, and when a suspect is dead, they can’t be prosecuted, so there is no investigation to protect.”
On the other hand, the proper method of forcing the government to release those documents is through a lawsuit, he said.
“Government entities have an interest in preventing leaks and making sure that information isn’t revealed outside the judicial process,” he added. “So I’m not surprised the mayor is investigating the source of the leak.”
Hale, who identified as a male named Aiden, but who police describe as a transgender woman, kept more than 20 journals, court documents revealed earlier this year, and the three purportedly leaked pages would only represent a snippet of the killer’s writings.
In addition to the manifesto, Hale made hand-drawn maps and diagrams of the school, with possible entry points, and drew pictures of a shooter wearing the same outfit she donned during the attack.
According to its website, the Covenant School opened in 2001 as part of the Covenant Presbyterian Church and served children from pre-K through sixth grade.
The child victims included the pastor’s daughter, Hallie Scruggs, as well as Evelyn Dieckhaus and William Kinney. Police identified the adults as 60-year-old Head of School Katherine Koonce, Cynthia Peak, 61, and Mike Hill, 61.
The killer was also seeing a doctor due to an emotional disorder but had legally purchased the seven guns from five stores leading up to the attack, police said.
Hale’s parents were unaware that the school shooter owned any guns after purportedly selling the single one they knew about, Chief John Drake said in March.
“They were under the impression that when she sold the weapon, she did not own anymore,” he said. “As it turned out she was hiding several weapons inside the house.”
“I hope this is an accidental situation rather than an act of malice or even worse, you know, sort of an act of… potentially selling things,” O’Connell added.
Fox News’ Seth Andrews and Mitch Picasso contributed to this report.
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