Student Identified in Police Shooting at Austin-East High School Monday

Apr 14, 2021

A memorial for Anthony Thompson Jr. set up in front of Austin-East Magnet High School.
Credit Brandon Hollingsworth, April 19, 2021

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation identified Anthony J. Thompson Jr., 17, as the student killed in a police shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School Monday.

The TBI said in a statement Wednesday the bullet that injured school resource officer Adam Willson was not from the student’s gun, according to preliminary evidence. That finding is contrary to investigators' previous statement on Monday, which said the student fired shots and struck an officer.

Police say they received reports of a student possibly armed with a gun on campus Monday afternoon, but the student had not fired it or hurt any peers with it at that point. According to investigators, the situation escalated after police arrived. TBI's Wednesday statement said, "the student's gun was fired" and police officers fired twice. TBI has not clarified who fired the student's gun.

Dozens of people gathered in front of Knoxville’s City-County building Wednesday, calling for transparency about Monday’s shooting.

“What really happened? That is the question,” said Deidre Harper, a founding member of the Black business development organization The Women of Knoxville. "110 percent is what we’re going to give to find justice for Mr. Johnson."

Community members called for transparency in the investigation of Monday's shooting, mental health specialists for Austin-East High School students and increased investment in East Knoxville during a rally outside Knoxville's City County building Wednesday.
Credit Sinead Doherty

The Knoxville Police Department has not released body camera footage from the incident. The police department rolled out body cameras on all their officers and police vehicles earlier this month, citing a goal of increased transparency.

“We need that body cam footage, we need that school footage, we need that security footage,” community organizer Constance Every said to the crowd gathered on Wednesday evening.  "We need every single shred and documentation of what happened Monday at 3:15 p.m.”

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation chief David Rausch said Monday his team is reviewing video footage both from the officer’s body camera and school security cameras. To date, the public has not been granted access to any footage from Monday's shooting.

UPDATE April 16: 

Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon issued a statement Wednesday night saying she requested the body camera footage from District Attorney Charme Allen, but that Allen denied her request. 

The district attorney told reporters Thursday she is waiting for the TBI to complete its criminal investigation before releasing any footage. She said Anthony Thompson Jr.'s death has been ruled a homicide. 

"All of the officers involved in this shooting have not given a statement yet,” Allen said. "To release the video for it to be out there to be viewed by potential witnesses before they give statement could potentially taint the criminal integrity of this case.” 

According to Tennessee state law, District Attorney Allen could choose to release footage at any point during an investigation. Knoxville defense attorney Mike Whalen said from his experience in the courtroom, he doesn’t see how releasing the footage now could impact a future trial. 

“I’ve been trying murder cases for over 20 years,” Whalen said. “I just can’t think of anything that could be in this that could interrupt the investigation. The only thing releasing it could do is clarify what happened and people wouldn’t have to be speculating as to what happened.”

District attorney Allen said her office will decide whether or not to bring criminal charges against a police officer after TBI finishes its investigation. If her office doesn't press charges, she will release the footage at the end of the investigation, Allen told reporters. 

Otherwise, she said the footage will come out during the criminal trial of the police officer who shot Anthony Thompson. In either scenario, she said her office plans to show Thompson’s family privately first. 

After Allen's comments, Knoxville Police Department chief Eve Thomas issued a statement Thursday evening saying she supports the release of body camera footage.

On Friday, a law firm representing three of the four officers involved in the shooting (lieutenant Stanley Cash, officer Brian Baldwin and officer Jonathon Clabough) issued a statement saying the three officers “fully support the release of all unedited body camera footage related to this incident.” 

This is a developing story.