A Black male high school student in Knoxville, TN was shot in his own school bathroom by police.
On April 12, Anthony J. Thompson Jr., 17, was shot by Knoxville Police Department Officer Adam Wilson after responding to a call about a fight at the school involving Thompson and his girlfriend Alexus Page, 17.
After the fight, Page called her mother, Regina Perkins, from the assistant principal’s office asking for permission to sign out and leave school early because she was upset. After asking a series of questions, Perkins got her daughter to admit that Thompson grabbed her hair during the fight. After multiple attempts to call Thompson’s mother failed, Perkins called the police.
The initial story was that Thompson got into a fight with Officer Wilson that allegedly led to shots fired by him (there were claims that Thompson had a gun) and Wilson responding with shooting his weapon leading to Thompson’s death.
Page and Thompson had been dating for almost eight months.
The three other officers involved in the incident, Lt. Stan Cash and Officers Brian Baldwin and Jonathon Clabough, have called for the release of the bodycam footage leading up to the shooting.
KPD Chief Eve Thomas wants the footage released as well. In a statement from the KPD, Thomas and the department said Knoxville’s citizens would benefit from seeing the footage.
“Chief Eve Thomas wants and supports the release of the relevant body camera footage from the officer-involved shooting inside of Austin-East Magnet High School,” read a statement on Thursday. “Our officers want to see the video released, and the community deserves it.”
On Friday, Black Lives Matter activists marched to downtown Knoxville calling for the release of the bodycam as well as holding up signs like “Justice for Anthony.” On Monday, seven protesters were arrested at a Knoxville County Commission meeting after interrupting the proceedings to scream for justice in the Thompson case.
One protester told the police to “get your hands off me!” as he was being handcuffed.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) said that a scuffle between Thompson and Officer Wilson was the reason for his killing. Two days later, TBI officials said that some of their initial reporting was false.
“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,” stated TBI officials. “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,” continued the statement.
The investigation’s ongoing, but TBI doesn’t want the public to react too much to the new revelations.
“As a reminder, the TBI acts solely as fact-finders in its cases and does not determine whether the actions of an officer were justified in these types of matters,” statement read. “That decision rests solely with the District Attorney General requesting TBI’s involvement.”
And that’s resulted in a struggle for the bodycam footage to be released publicly.
Police weren’t the only ones pushing for the bodycam video release. Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon and the City of Knoxville filed a petition in criminal court this week pushing for the release.
“Our district attorney general sought a court order in 2019 to maintain control of evidence in a criminal proceeding,” Kincannon said during a news briefing on Monday. “When I spoke to General Allen after the incident, she maintained that this court order prohibited me from releasing the video. I disagree with this interpretation.”
“Every day the video is not released undermines public trust,” said Kincannon.
But calls for the bodycam’s release have been met with deaf ears in the county district attorney offices. Knoxville County District Attorney Charme Allen said she will not release any evidence stating that the video would result in a trial by media.
“Before you’re allowed to see that, it has to complete its function as criminal evidence,” Charme told reporters. “To release any part of the evidence in this case before we have collected all the evidence may taint things that are still being done.”
With no one charged for a crime. Kincannon retorted stating that it was time the people get a close view of what happened inside Austin-East High School.
“Transparency also means timely… not six or 18 months later but as soon after an incident as possible,” Kincannon said.
The KPD just started using bodycams last year.
Thompson’s family called on a high profile lawyer who just celebrated a legal victory in another case of extrajudicial killings by police. Coming off of a victory in the Derek Chauvin trial, Attorney Benjamin Crump announced he would represent the family in court.
“Once again, when a Black person is killed, in this case a Black child, the police quickly shape a narrative to justify the death,” Crump said in a released statement. “The world was told that Anthony shot an officer and that’s why police fatally shot him. Then, the facts revealed the only shots first were by law enforcement…”
“Why are Black lives treated as disposable by police in case after case?” asked Crump. “It’s shocking to me that when suspects are white, even shooters who took multiple lives like Kyle Rittenhouse and Nikolas Cruz, police manage to take them into custody alive.”