Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on Tuesday called on federal law enforcement agencies to investigate the shooting at a Christian grade school in Nashville, Tennessee, as a religious hate crime.
He gave a fiery speech on the Senate floor in which he labeled it as such and further demanded liberal groups condemn rhetoric against people of faith he claimed contributed to the shooting.
“This was a hate crime against Christian children & teachers. There is no defending it. All activist groups should condemn this hate crime, and all hate rhetoric that contributed to it,” Hawley wrote in a follow-up tweet.
Federal investigators haven’t yet determined the motive of the shooter, however. A source familiar with the investigation also told HuffPost there is no evidence that anyone at the school was targeted based on their religion.
“We have no evidence to prove any specific religion motivated the actions of the shooter. This is evident based on the fact that other locations were being considered that had no religious ties,” the source said.
Attorney General Merrick Garland told lawmakers earlier on Tuesday that federal investigators are still working to determine the shooter’s motive.
“Of course, motive is what determines whether it’s a hate crime or not,” Garland said at a Senate appropriations hearing.
Asked to respond to Hawley’s claim that Christians were specifically targeted in the shooting, President Joe Biden, who has been receiving updates on the investigation, said, “I have no idea.”
Audrey Elizabeth Hale, the 28-year-old deceased shooter, was a former student at the school who was also under a doctor’s care for an “emotional disorder,” Nashville police revealed Tuesday. Police said they believed Hale was transgender but are still investigating whether it played a role in the shooting.
Hale left a map of the school showing entry points and what police described as a “manifesto,” indicating that Hale may have planned to carry out shootings at other locations.
“Writings recovered from Hale revealed that her attack was calculated and planned,” police said in a release Tuesday.
Three children and three adults died after Hale opened fire at the private Christian school. Hale was killed at the scene by police.