Updated Nov 7, 2023 - News

Leak investigation begins after Covenant shooting documents posted

Police outside The Covenant School

Police blocking the entrance of The Covenant School after the March 27 shooting. Photo: Benjamin Hendren/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

An investigation is underway to determine how a conservative media host was able to get what he said were images of The Covenant School shooter's writings.

  • A Covenant parent told reporters in Nashville the surprise release of the images Monday morning allowed the shooter to "terrorize us with words from the grave."

Driving the news: Steven Crowder, who hosts the national web show "Louder with Crowder," posted three photos that appeared to show excerpts of the writings on X, where he has more than 2 million followers.

  • The writings have been the subject of intense debate since the March 27 shooting, which killed three 9-year-old students and three school employees. Police have said they recovered multiple journals tied to the shooter.
  • Some Covenant families, and the school itself, have fought in court to keep the writings from being released.

What he's saying: "None of these evil ramblings should ever have been made public," said Brent Leatherwood, the former executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party, who has emerged as a prominent voice representing the Covenant community.

  • "Parents and families came together to prevent this exact moment from happening, to prevent the re-victimizing of our children and prevent further trauma to our families."
  • "To the online shock jock who aired these images, I would challenge him and anyone who amplifies them online: Just be a human for once. Quit seeking clicks and retweets and platform-building."

Crowder posted on X that he released the three images not for "clicks & clout" but "because the public had a right to know."

State of play: Mayor Freddie O'Connell asked Metro legal director Wally Dietz to launch an investigation "into how these images could have been released."

  • "That investigation may involve local, state, and federal authorities," O'Connell said in a statement.
  • Dietz said he had begun an investigation "with multiple law enforcement agencies to determine exactly what happened" regarding "this possible leak of documents."
  • He said he could not confirm or deny the authenticity of the images because of the ongoing legal fight over the writings. The Metro Nashville Police Department said in a statement they were not MNPD crime scene images.

Police Chief John Drake said in a statement he was "greatly disturbed" by the "unauthorized release of three pages of writings from the Covenant shooter."

  • Leatherwood said he had spoken to police and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation about the images.
  • "Metro has assured me that this is a felony, that the person who [gave the images to Crowder] will be brought to justice. They will be arrested. And that absolutely has to happen," said Leatherwood.

Zoom out: The decision on how or if to release the full writings rests with the court system. Multiple parties sued in an attempt to obtain the records.

  • Republican state lawmakers previously called for police to release the shooter's writings and other evidence, saying the records could guide their policy response.
  • Journalists also asked to see documents to ensure transparency and a full understanding of the investigation. Police declined, saying the investigation was ongoing.

What's next: A Tennessee appeals court is currently considering if the Covenant families should be allowed to participate in the legal debate over the records.

  • Leatherwood said the families would continue fighting to keep the remaining writings from becoming public.

The bottom line: Leatherwood said the images released Monday had not provided any meaningful information about the shooting.

  • "Have we learned anything we didn't already know?" he said. "Did we not already know that this was a deeply disturbed individual that was detached from reality?"

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional quotes and details.


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