NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Metro police are preparing to release written material from The Covenant School shooter.
While the word “manifesto” was used in the days after the shooting, on Wednesday police spokesperson Don Aaron told News 2 that the writings are essentially dated journals, saying, “While the word manifesto was used on the first day, we have since referred to these as writings or journals.” Aaron also said they are beginning the “close review/preparation process for the public release of written material.”
Key Tennessee Republicans have been calling for investigators to release the documents, saying it’s critical to know the motive behind the murders before a special session is held on gun law reform.
A retired FBI agent said relevance and potential privacy issues are among the concerns investigators consider before releasing a shooter’s writings.
“We all want a sentence that says ‘I did this because of this,’ but very rarely do you get somebody that writes that,” Katherine Schweit explained.
It’s a topic Schweit knows all too well; the author and former FBI Special Agent created the agency’s active shooter program following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
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“I’ve worked in this space a long time and we want the lessons learned out of this,” she said.
Over the last month, the FBI and Metro police investigators have been analyzing what The Covenant School shooter left behind.
“It’s my understanding that there’s a large volume of material that needs to be gone through,” said Schweit.
Today, the front door is still boarded up at the home where the shooter lived with their parents on Brightwood Avenue. Search warrants detailed what investigators seized inside, including 30 journals, some with references to school shootings and firearms courses, a suicide note, and five Covenant School yearbooks. Investigators also seized what they described as a psych medical folder.
While Schweit said it’s a large volume of content, it may provide limited value as investigators consider the relevance and potential privacy issues of others.
“That shooter is gone but the family is not, so you have to include all of that in your consideration of what to release. I know people are anxious to see and hear what might have been written, but I think that is more curiosity than it is forensic value,” Schweit said. “As much as we want a motive and we want an explanation of why it’s kind of an equal disservice to kind of just randomly release everything and we’ve learned from past mistakes that when we release everything it doesn’t necessarily move the motive forward, but it gives the shooter exactly what they want; they get permanent fame and glory out of it.”
Schweit pointed to the release of Columbine material as being a lesson learned.
“Those have become blueprints for other shooters. We don’t want to make that mistake again. So I think it’s important to take the time to decide what, if anything can be released.”
Schweit added that there isn’t a timeline for releasing information in an investigation of a mass shooting.
“Investigations take as long as they do. Law enforcement and behavioral experts are looking as long as they need to and they will be analyzing whatever they obtain over a long period of time. It’s not something that’s released and then it goes away. We are still reading documents that were released from shooters and other offenders from 20 and 30 years ago. There’s always value from an investigative standpoint, but I think the public is looking for it from a curiosity standpoint,” said Schweit.
While some information may not be released to the public, Schweit said that doesn’t mean it can’t be shared with victims and family members, as well as other behavioral experts and law enforcement as they look to find the next shooter before they strike.