A lawyer for the parents of Nashville school shooter Audrey Hale, who killed three adults and three elementary students at a Christian school in March, said at a hearing Thursday that the family owns the killer's manifesto.
The assertion came as part of a Tennessee lawsuit in which the National Police Association and private investigator Clata Brewer are asking the court to order the release of Hale's writings in response to their public records requests, said Doug Pierce, an attorney for the NPA.
"During the course of this hearing, a real kind of gratuitous thing happened, and that is one of the lawyers for the parents introduced a criminal defense lawyer who says that he represents the parents of the shooter," Pierce told Fox News Digital on Thursday. "He said that the shooter died without having a will and therefore has no other heirs, so whatever those writings, i.e., the manifesto, he says they belong to the parents, and the parents are going to assign their interest in those writings to the school."
On the other hand, that shouldn't change the fact that documents seized during an investigation become part of the public record, he said.
"If public officials take them into custody as part of their duties, which is what happened here when police took them, they become part of the public record," he said.
Hale, a 28-year-old trans artist, left behind a manifesto, artwork and numerous other writings, police said after the March 27 massacre.
The killer, who had attended the church-linked Covenant School as a child, barged into the school armed with three guns in what police have called a "calculated and planned" attack that was outlined in documents recovered from the killer's car.
The killer wrote a manifesto, kept journals and made hand-drawn maps and diagrams of the school, with possible entry points and illustrations that showed a shooter wearing the same outfit that Hale wore that day, police said.
Police previously released surveillance video that showed the heroics of responding officers as they stormed the building and neutralized Hale in front of a second-story window from which the killer was actively shooting at police outside.
A decision on the manifesto's release could come within days or weeks, Pierce said, as the court considers how to move forward amid an appeal over attempts from the school and students' parents to intervene in the lawsuit.
"We'll have to wait and see how that develops," Pierce said. "I think we already have got very strong case law in the state that says it doesn’t matter who owns the paper or what's written on it. It’s a public record. If it’s a public record, it's always a public record."
According to its website, the Covenant School opened in 2001 as part of the Covenant Presbyterian Church and served children from pre-K through sixth grade.
The child victims included the pastor's daughter, Hallie Scruggs, as well as Evelyn Dieckhaus and William Kinney, all 9 years old. Police identified the adults as 60-year-old Head of School Katherine Koonce, Cynthia Peak, 61, and Mike Hill, 61.
Court records suggested Hale had no criminal history in Metro Nashville or Davidson County.
Investigators served a search warrant at Hale's home about three miles from the church and school.
Hale lived in the family's home and slept with journals on other school shootings under the bed, according to unsealed search warrants.
Police seized the journals and a trove of documents and electronic devices, court filings reveal. Hale also left behind a suicide note on a desk under one of several laptops police recovered near a list of passwords in the bedroom.
Hale was an artist who attended the Nossi College of Art and Design.
The killer had been seeing a doctor due to an emotional disorder and had legally purchased seven guns from five stores leading up to the attack, police said.
Hale's parents were unaware that the school shooter owned any guns after purportedly selling the single one they knew about, Police Chief John Drake said in March.
"They were under the impression that when she sold the weapon, she did not own any more," he said. "As it turned out, she was hiding several weapons inside the house."
When Hale burst into the school, the first victim, Hill, suffered fatal gunshot wounds. According to city officials, Koonce heard the first shots while on a Zoom call, hung up and confronted Hale. Police found her dead in the hallway outside her office.
Drake said investigators had not immediately determined a motive but that they believed Hale, a former student, had targeted the school and its affiliated church.