Former Hamilton County sheriff, Tennessee gun group sue Nashville police for shooter manifesto

Staff photo by Olivia Ross  /  Then-Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond talks about his time as sheriff on Aug. 16 ahead of his retirement. Hammond has joined a lawsuit seeking access to writings by and other information regarding Audrey Hale, who killed six people, including three children, in a shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville on March 27.
Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Then-Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond talks about his time as sheriff on Aug. 16 ahead of his retirement. Hammond has joined a lawsuit seeking access to writings by and other information regarding Audrey Hale, who killed six people, including three children, in a shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville on March 27.


Former Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond has joined a Tennessee Firearms Association lawsuit against the Nashville city government and the Metro Nashville Police Department after the department refused to release the writings of and other information about The Covenant School shooter.

The lawsuit came after Nashville authorities denied a public records request by a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization. Public records in Tennessee are only available to residents of the state. Hammond, who said he was a longtime friend of the group Judicial Watch, requested the records himself but was also denied access, he said.

Judicial Watch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that "promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law," according to the group's website.

"This is not anything against my police brothers," Hammond told the Chattanooga Times Free Press by phone Tuesday.

Hammond, who retired Aug. 31, said he joined the lawsuit to ensure transparency on how the situation was handled by law enforcement and responding agencies is upheld.

"It's just that we want open transparency in regard to a way that case was handled and especially information that may be helpful to police in saying that this doesn't happen again," Hammond said.

The lawsuit seeks access to the "manifesto" written by the shooter, Audrey Hale, who on March 27 shot into The Covenant School and killed three children and three adults before being shot and killed by responding officers.

The lawsuit is also asking for body camera footage, photographs, impound and evidence invoices, coroner information, toxicology reports, audio calls for service and surveillance footage.

The material, according to Hammond, will be used to prepare other law enforcement agencies to identify signs of a potential shooter to help keep their communities safe.

"We'll take a look at that material and will advise other groups, including law enforcement, of any information that might be germane to keeping citizens safe in their own county," Hammond said.

The lawsuit said petitioners submitted three public records requests.

The Metro Nashville Police Department's public information officer told Fox 17 in Nashville that "the investigation has advanced to the point that writings from the Covenant shooter are now being reviewed for public release. That process is underway and will take a little time."

Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake has said Hale, who was a former student of the school, was being treated for an emotional disorder and purchased at least seven firearms.

The Covenant School is a Presbyterian-affiliated school with roughly 200 students in preschool through sixth grade, according to its website.

After the shooting, Chattanooga-area private schools considered increasing security on their campuses in efforts to keep their students and faculty safe.

Contact La Shawn Pagán at lpagan@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.

(READ MORE: Opinion: Is Nashville school shooter’s ‘manifesto’ an open record under the Tennessee Public Records Act?)