Authored by Chase Smith via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
Top law enforcement officials with the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD), including the lead investigator in The Covenant School shooting case, have filed motions with the court to stop the release of evidence amid their “ongoing” investigation. In their court filings, law enforcement stated they believed the assailant Audrey Hale, who died on the scene, acted alone, but they “do not know for sure.”
“Even though the assailant died at the school, the criminal investigative file does not automatically, instantly close,” investigator Lt. Brent Gibson wrote in a court filing. “Investigators must still work to gather and analyze evidence in the case and determine if related crimes were committed, are being planned, or whether other people were involved.”
Gibson went on to say the Covenant investigation is expected to take approximately “12 months,” based upon the “volume of evidence and the number of persons to be interviewed,” along with officers working on a total of 46 homicide investigations in the city so far this year.
“For comparison purposes, an investigation for a murder-suicide case, where it appears ‘obvious’ what has happened, typically takes eight months,” Gibson added. “While we believe at this time that the assailant acted alone in this case, we do not know for sure. And we need to investigate the matter thoroughly, as we do in all homicides, to rule out any co-conspirators or additional crimes related to this matter.”
He said he believed the release of the investigative files prematurely could cause “harmful and irreversible consequences.”
MNPD Weighs In
The court filings came in a pending open records lawsuit, in which MNPD was forced to turn over unredacted versions of shooter Audrey Hale’s suicide note and journal last week for the judge’s review. The suit was filed after MNPD refused to release the documents to several individuals and groups.
A hearing and scheduling conference in the lawsuit was scheduled for Thursday, May 18, but Chancellor I’Ashea Myles, in a Wednesday evening ruling, postponed it to Monday, May 22.
On Wednesday, the officers, alongside several parents of Covenant students, filed their motions with the court, with parents urging the documents to not be released at all.
MNPD said they are using the investigation process to determine whether the “assailant had any assistance with planning the shooting or any assistance with weapons purchases.”
MNPD Deputy Chief Mike Hagar’s motion with the court stated that officers have been investigating and gathering information about the March 27 shooting since it happened.
“The MNPD investigation into the matter is still an active, ongoing criminal investigation and an open matter,” he wrote in the filing. “Based on my 34 years of experience in law enforcement, I believe that harmful and irreversible consequences could result from disclosing investigative files prematurely, including in this case.”
Gibson said officers have been “meeting with, and grieving with the families” alongside working with state and federal agencies, interviewing witnesses, executing search warrants, and gathering documents, items and electronic files from the scene, Hale’s home, and her background.
Hagar said the investigative file associated with the Covenant shooting is the result of “education and investigative experience utilized by law enforcement officers” to gather information relevant to the crime.
“It is essential that police investigators be able to gather materials freely and broadly, using their judgment, without fear that materials they gather will prematurely be released to the public and cause prejudice to the effectiveness of the investigation,” Hagar continued. “I have a good faith belief that [MNPD’s] denial… of [the] public records requests were proper.”
He and Gibson urged the court to allow MNPD to continue and conclude its investigation “in an unrushed, deliberate manner” before the records are released.
Hagar did say, however, that after reviewing the redacted version of the writings submitted to the court alongside the unredacted version, he “does not believe” the release of redacted documents would “impede the investigation.”
Gibson said on the matter, “Releasing any of the puzzle pieces too quickly could jeopardize putting this intricate puzzle together.”
Gibson specified the documents and records MNPD is still in the process of gathering, such as social media records from the past two years, internet and bank account records, phone records, autopsy and toxicology reports, records obtained from search warrants, medical records including psychiatric treatment and gun and ammunition account records.
Gibson also stated they are interviewing individuals identified in all the records and Hale’s actions for the months prior to the incident and following up on information discovered during the course of the investigation.
“Many of these documents must be subpoenaed, and it takes time to get the records back,” Gibson wrote. “MNPD must then examine the content of the materials and the metadata. MNPD needs to review the assailant’s messaging data, internet search histories, and any other relevant evidence. This often can be a time-consuming process.”
He goes on to say MNPD hasn’t had an opportunity to interview everyone “connected to the incident” or to review “all the materials it has gathered.”
Parents Argue Against Any Release
Earlier this week, the Covenant School and Covenant Presbyterian Church filed motions with the court to become a third-party intervener in the open records suit, stating the release of such documents could cause safety and security concerns as well as release the private information of church and school staff.
On Wednesday, the parents of Covenant School students filed their motion, stating their filing had the “overwhelming” support of the Covenant community, with their estimations being that “three-quarters” of Covenant families expressed support to intervene in the suit.
“This brief is filed on behalf of all three families who lost children who have endured a pain that no words can adequately describe,” they wrote. “This brief is filed on behalf of the surviving children who lived through an unimaginable nightmare and who must deal with the repercussions of that nightmare for the rest of their lives.”
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