NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Four of seven Nashville Police officers who had been put on administrative assignment following the leak of pages from a school shooter's journals to a conservative commentator have returned to regular duty, according to a police statement on Friday.
The officers had been placed on the administrative assignment to “protect the integrity" of the investigation into who leaked the documents, Metro Nashville Police Department spokesman Don Aaron said last week. He emphasized that the assignment is non-punitive. Police on Friday would not clarify whether the four officers who returned to regular duty have been cleared of any role in the leak.
The person who killed three 9-year-old children and three adults at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville this spring left behind at least 20 journals, a suicide note and a memoir, according to court filings. The writings have been the object of intense speculation and an open records battle, with several groups suing to force Nashville officials to release them to the public.
Police initially said they intended to release the writings once they closed their investigation, which could take up to a year. Since then, a group of Covenant School parents have joined the lawsuit, arguing that none of the documents should ever be released. They say shooter Audrey Hale's writings could traumatize their children and inspire copycats. The Tennessee Court of Appeals heard arguments last month over whether the parents have a right to intervene in the case but have not yet ruled.
The three children who were killed in the shooting were Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney, all 9 years old. The three adults were Katherine Koonce, 60, the head of the school, custodian Mike Hill, 61, and 61-year-old substitute teacher Cynthia Peak.
In the midst of the legal wrangling, someone slipped images of three of Hale's journal pages to conservative commentator Stephen Crowder, who published them on Nov. 6. They include a detailed timeline for the March 27 shooting labeled “Death Day” and a slur-filled diatribe about kids who attend “private fancy schools,” although the 28-year-old Hale was a former Covenant student.
The public search to understand the shooting is complicated by that fact that Hale, who was assigned female at birth, seems to have begun identifying as a transgender man. That has prompted right-wing commentators, politicians and other figures to promote a theory that the shooting was a hate crime against Christians. The delay in releasing the writings has fueled speculation — particularly in conservative circles — regarding what the they might contain and conspiracy theories about why police won’t release them.
Police are investigating how Crowder got the journal pages. Nashville Law Director Wally Dietz has said in a news release that the journals are part of the criminal investigative file but that police had provided a copy to the Law Department to review what could be released under the Tennessee Public Records Act. Once the journals became the subject of a lawsuit, the Law Department filed copies under seal with the court. One was unredacted and one copy contained the proposed redactions. The pages that Crowder posted have a watermark on the lower right that says “redacted.”