Anthony J. Thompson Jr. was identified by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation as the Austin-East Magnet High School student in Knoxville, Tennessee, who was killed in an officer-involved shooting. A Knoxville Police officer, Adam Willson, was also injured, but police said Thompson did not shoot the officer, according to their early investigative findings. Thompson was 17.
Law enforcement officers from multiple departments were called to the school at about 3:15 p.m. Monday, April 12, after the report of a male possibly armed with a gun, according to the Knoxville Police Department. Knoxville Police Department identified the officers involved as Lieutenant Stanley Cash, Officer Jonathon Clabough and Officer Brian Baldwin. Knox County District Attorney released footage from the shooting following an investigation, and said no charges would be filed during a press conference Wednesday, April 21, 2021.
A Tennessee Bureau of Investigations statement Wednesday, April 14, said “the student’s gun was fired” during a struggle after officers entered the restroom, and law enforcement fired twice. TBI said it was not the student’s gun that struck Willson, according to their preliminary investigation.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Said Thompson Was ‘Possibly’ Armed in the School & Shots Were Fired After Officers Approached Him, But That the Student Did Not Shoot the Officer
Police said they found Thompson in the bathroom at the school, and ordered him out after receiving reports of a male “possibly” armed in the school, Tennessee Bureau of Investigations Director David Rausch said during a Monday evening press conference. During a struggle with police, TBI said “the student’s gun was fired.” Officers also fired shots, and Thompson was fatally shot, Rausch said. One of the responding officers, Willson, was shot in the hip. TBI’s statement Wednesday, April 14, 2021, said it was not a bullet from Thompson’s gun that struck the officer.
“Preliminary examinations indicate the bullet that struck the KPD officer was not fired from the student’s handgun,” the statement said.
The latest statement emphasized that the information released early in an investigation is only preliminary.
The statement said:
The TBI has confirmed the student who died during Monday’s incident as Anthony J. Thompson, Jr. (DOB 12/1/2003). Additionally, as the investigation continues, and as TBI agents learn more about the set of events that unfolded at Austin-East Magnet High School Monday afternoon, the Bureau would like to update the set of events as we understand them at this time.
The role of the TBI in these investigations is to determine the facts based on the evidence and present those facts and evidence to the District Attorney General. During investigations, agents discover facts that may clarify initial reports. This is why our agency uses terms in our releases such as ‘preliminary,’ ‘possibly,’ and ‘reportedly.’ This update provides clarification to the initial information released on this case.
– After receiving the report of a student possibly armed with a gun, responding KPD officers located the student inside a school restroom at Austin-East.
– Officers entered the restroom.
– During a subsequent struggle, the student’s gun was fired. This was followed by law enforcement firing twice.
– Preliminary examinations indicate the bullet that struck the KPD officer was not fired from the student’s handgun.
The statement differs from TBI’s statement in the hours after the shooting, which said “the subject reportedly fired shots, striking an officer.” TBI is now saying that was not the case.
Rausch said in the Monday press conference investigators were reviewing footage from body cams and school security footage, in addition to interviewing potential witnesses.
Early investigation results indicated that police were called to the scene at the high school for a report of a male with a gun, which resulted in shots fired when police approached the student.
“Based on the preliminary investigation, Knoxville Police Department Officers responded to Austin-East Magnet High School on the report of a male suspect who was possibly armed in the school. Upon the approach of the suspect, shots were fired,” the Knoxville Police Department said in a statement.
Police did not identified the student or victims at the time. They said only that a teenage boy was killed, an officer was injured, and another male was detained for questioning.
2. Knoxville Community Members Gathered to Demand Transparency From Police & Students Shared Video & Live Updates on Social Media From the School
Members of the Knoxville community gathered on the evening of Wednesday, April 14, 2021 after the shooting of Thompson and demanded transparency from police, according to WATE. The gathering came after TBI released Thompson’s name and updated findings, saying their preliminary investigation indicated the bullet that hit Willson did not come from Thompson’s gun.
“HAPPENING NOW: Many community members are joining together outside of the City County Building to demand more transparency from police and change in east Knoxville,” WATE reporter Austin Martin wrote on Twitter. “This all after a shooting inside Austin-East High School that claimed the life of Anthony J. Thompson, Jr.”
Some students quickly took to social media in the moments after the shooting.
“Gunshots in the school!!!” Monet Jackson wrote on Facebook.
A comment asked where she was.
“Under a desk,” she answered.
“Stay under that desk,” the person responded.
“I’m so proud of you for staying safe and calm, sweet girl,” Crystal Floyd wrote in a comment on a separate post. “Sending much love.”
Jackson later shared a seven-second video filmed from a window, which showed a person in uniform sprinting across the lawn followed by a person in slacks and a dress shirt.
“The shots was literally outside my classroom in the hallway,” she wrote.
Another video showed crime scene tape and confusion in the hallway. She wrote that she could smell blood.
3. Community Members Held Vigils for Thompson, Who Went By ‘Ant,’ & Called for an End to Gun Violence
Dozens of people, including community members, clergy, children and teens gathered outside Austin-East High School Tuesday afternoon to pray for their community and mourn the death of Thompson, according to Knox News. Prayers went up for healing and protection at the school and for positive change to come soon.
The newspaper reported the group sand The group briefly sang “Do Not Pass Me By:” “Savior, savior, hear my humble cry; While on others Thou art calling, do not pass me by.”
Another vigil was held that evening at Overcoming Believers Church. Thompson used the nickname, “Ant.”
The news outlet reported that Thompson’s social media account was “flooded” with tributes and that there were more than 100 comments on his last Instagram post.
Tennessee Bureau of Investigations Director David Raush expressed sympathy to the family of the deceased student during a Monday evening press conference.
“What a sad day,” he said.
Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas also said the department was sending prayers to the family of the deceased student.
The Knoxville Police Officer who was injured in the shooting is expected to survive his injuries, Knoxville Police Department said in a statement. They later added Willson was recovering in the hospital after surgery.
“A KPD officer was struck at least one time and transported to the UT Medical Center with injuries that are not expected to be life threatening,” the statement said. “One male was pronounced deceased at the scene, while another was detained for further investigation. There are no other known gunshot victims.”
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is leading the investigation, which is standard protocol for officer-involved shootings in Tennessee.
Superintendent Bob Thomas also provided updates on his Twitter account shortly after the shooting.
“Knox County Schools is responding to a shooting that occurred this afternoon at Austin-East Magnet High School. We are gathering information about this tragic situation and will provide additional information as soon as possible,” he wrote.
“The school building has been secured and students who were not involved in the incident have been released to their families,” Thomas wrote in an update.
The Tennessee Department of Education expressed their sympathy to those involved and said mental health services would be provided.
“As details continue to emerge, our thoughts are with Austin East Magnet High School and those school community members who have been affected by the shooting that took place this afternoon. The department stands ready to support,” they wrote on Twitter. “District and school leaders, staff, and educators can access the Emotional Support Line for free and confidential mental health support via call or text. Access the line at 888-642-7886 from 6 a.m.- 10 p.m. CT / 7 a.m.- 11 p.m. ET daily.”
Knoxville Police said a reunification center was set up at the baseball field near the high school.
4. Thompson Jr.’s Family Is Being Represented by Civil Rights Attorney Ben Crump
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump is representing Thompson Jr.’s family, his office said in a statement. Crump’s family retained him “to represent them and advocate for justice.”
The statement said:
Once again, when a Black person is killed, in this case a Black child, the police quickly shape a narrative to justify the death. The world was told that Anthony shot an officer and that’s why police fatally shot him. Then, the facts revealed the only shots fired were by law enforcement and the injured police officer may have been struck by his own bullet or another officer’s bullet.
Why are Black lives treated as disposable by police in case after case? It’s shocking to me that when suspects are white, even shooters who took multiple lives like Kyle Rittenhouse and Nikolas Crus, police manage to take them into custody alive. But when a suspect is a person of color,there is no attempt to de-escalate the situation. Police shoot first and ask questions later, time after time, because Black lives are afforded less value. We will seek answers and justice for Anthony’s family.
District Attorney General Charme Allen declined to immediately release the body cam footage of the shooting, citing an ongoing investigation. The announcement prompted a lengthy Twitter thread from Mayor Indya Kincannon, saying she was committed to transparency and would push for the release of redacted footage. The officers who were involved in the shooting also called for video to be released.
The statement said:
I hear and feel the frustration, pain and anguish as we grapple with the tragic shooting inside Austin-East High School. I support releasing any incident videos to the media and the public as soon as it is legally allowed. I am committed to transparency and hope that a greater understanding of the circumstances of this tragedy will help our city heal.
State law regarding the release of video of minors taken inside of a school and a Criminal Court order governing release of police videos in Knox County complicate this situation.
Nonetheless, I have requested that District Attorney General Charme Allen allow the City to release redacted footage from the shooting inside Austin-East High School.
However, as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of Knox County, including the City of Knoxville, General Allen respectfully declined release of the video at this time. General Allen explained that she made this decision in order to maintain the integrity of the on-going investigation and to protect the constitutional rights of anyone who might be charged as a result of this investigation.
I will continue to push for transparency and communication as this investigation continues.
“Numb,” Corey L. Hodge wrote on Facebook. “Connected to the school or not, keep Austin East in consistent prayers. Check on anyone you know that attends or is of faculty. Now.”
Comments from friends said they were praying and checking on their loved ones.
“Numb is the right word. Stunned and in disbelief right now,” one person wrote in the comments.
Governor Bill Lee held a pre-scheduled press conference soon after the shooting, and opened his statements by speaking briefly about the shooting. He said he was briefed on the incident and had limited information early in the investigation, but asked that the victims and community be kept in prayers.
Both in-person and remote learning was cancelled at the school for the week, Knox News reported.
5. Tributes to ‘Ant’ Thompson Poured Out on Social Media; He Was the Fifth Knoxville Teen to be Killed in Recent Months in Shootings
Tributes poured out the Thompson with the hashtag, RIPAnt.
“That was one of my son’s friend who he went to school with and played basketball with,” one woman wrote on Facebook.
Knox News reported that four Knoxville teens have been killed as a result of gun violence in recent months, leading to a public outcry to stop the violence.
Austin-East student Justin Taylor, 15, was killed after police said a 17-year-old boy shot him accidentally while they were both inside a car January 27. The 17-year-old was arrested on a charge of criminally negligent homicide.
Stanley Freeman Jr., 16, was fatally shot on Tarleton Avenue while he was driving home after school on February 12. Two teenage boys, ages 14 and 16, were arrested and charged with killing him.
Janaria Muhammad, 15, a freshman at Austin-East, was found shot to death outside the home where she lived February 16.
Jamarion “Lil Dada” Gillette, 15, was shot March 9. A woman found him wounded on the Cherokee Trail in South Knoxville and took him to the hospital, where he died the next day.
No arrests have been made in the deaths of Muhammad or Gillette.