USA: The National Police Association (NPA) announced today that it has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in conjunction with its Tennessee private investigator, Clata Renee Brewer, against the governments of Nashville and Davidson County for refusal to act on a request for records. The FOIA request asked for all writings by Audrey Hale, to include a manifesto, recovered by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD) relating to the March 27, 2023 mass shooting that occurred at The Covenant School, in Nashville, Tennessee where Audrey Hale killed three children and three adults. The FOIA also requested all records, including emails, texts, and other communications to and from the MNPD mentioning or regarding the writings of Audrey Hale recovered by the MNPD, because it is possible MNPD has been subjected to political pressure to keep all or part of the writings secret. As of April 28, 2023, no response to the FOIA request had been received. MNPD has denied similar requests claiming an ongoing criminal investigation.
Despite MNPD’s claims that a criminal investigation was underway, the Director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations disclosed publicly at least twice there was no ongoing criminal investigation.
Once, on April 5, 2023, addressing a meeting of the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association, Tennessee Bureau of Investigations Director David Rausch disclosed it had already been established from Hale’s writings recovered that Hale “acted alone”.
Again, on April 14, 2023, a video interview with PIJN News was published in which Tennessee Bureau of Investigations Director David Rausch was asked (17:36 mark) “What are the next steps” since there will be no trial because the shooter is dead. Rausch responded, “Unfortunately you’re right, this is it.” “The individual responsible is no longer with us.”
There have been interviews given by other local government officials indicating the writings were instead being withheld from FOIA requests due to a profile of the shooter being developed by the FBI exclusively and because the writings are too scary to be made public. Even if true, neither are valid exemptions for FOIA.
On April 27, 2023, Fox News Digital reported Nashville police confirmed they will release a manifesto they recovered from the car of Covenant School shooter Audrey Elizabeth Hale, a 28-year-old transgender former student who they say gunned down three 9-year-olds and three adults last month. https://www.foxnews.com/us/nashville-police-to-release-manifesto-christian-school-shooting-massacre. The reported change in posture by MNPD does not address the NPA’s requests for MNPD communications, nor does it indicate an intent to fully comply with a complete release of all the Hale writings, nor does it indicate an intent to conform to a timeline.
The NPA believes releasing the complete materials will benefit law enforcement and the public. The writings of killers often offer critical insights into the factors that contribute to the development of criminal behavior. While the content of these documents may be disturbing, they can provide researchers and law enforcement with valuable information that can be used to prevent future acts of violence. The communications between MNPD and political influencers who may have caused the MNPD to not honor the FOIA statute will provide guidance going forward on how other departments can plan for and prevent similar political interference.
According to Doug Pierce of The King & Ballow Law Offices, counsel for Plaintiff, ”More than three decades ago the Tennessee Supreme Court recognized that the public has a right to records related to a police shoot out where all the perpetrators had been killed and therefore there was going to be no criminal prosecution. In this Covenant School case, it has been more than a month since the shooter was killed and the officers involved have been praised for their actions in the incident. Accordingly, there is no criminal case and there is no reasonable likelihood of there ever being a criminal case arising from this incident. The Metro Nashville Police Department has sought to rely upon a rule of Criminal Procedure to deny public access, but those Rules only relate to a ‘criminal proceeding.’ Therefore, the Rules of Criminal Procedure do not provide an excuse to deny public access to the records related to this incident. Since MNPD now seems to acknowledge there is no criminal investigation there is no remaining excuse for why they have not complied with our request.”
The case is Case No. 23-0538-III CLATA RENEE BREWER v. METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY, IN THE CHANCERY COURT FOR DAVIDSON COUNTY, TENNESSEE TWENTIETH JUDICIAL DISTRICT, AT NASHVILLE. The lawsuit can be read here https://nationalpolice.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/Brewer-v-Nashville.pdf
The National Police Association is an Indiana based 501(c)(3) nonprofit in the IRS Educational/Advocacy category. The NPA regularly provides legal assistance in support of officers and agencies facing lawsuits which could have negative effects on law enforcement in the event of an adverse ruling. The NPA works to improve public and officer safety through education and policy advocacy by engaging in outreach, legislative testimony, and the production of public service announcements. The NPA engages in the dissemination of educational information through its weekly television program, social media, original publications, and media appearances.
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