Tennessee Student Killed by Police Did Not Fire Bullet That Hit Officer, Officials Say
Anthony J. Thompson Jr., 17, a student at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville, Tenn., was fatally shot during a struggle, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said.,
A student who was fatally shot during a confrontation with the police on Monday at a Knoxville, Tenn., high school did not fire the bullet that struck an officer who was wounded, the authorities said on Wednesday.
The disclosure by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation contradicted its earlier statements that the police officer had been shot by the student at Austin-East Magnet High School.
The bureau said on Wednesday that the student’s gun had been fired in a struggle with officers. “Preliminary examinations indicate the bullet that struck the KPD officer was not fired from the student’s handgun,” the bureau said in a statement.
Investigators declined to say whether the bullet that struck the officer in the leg had come from his own gun or from another officer’s weapon.
The bureau identified the student on Wednesday as Anthony J. Thompson Jr., a 17-year-old Black student at the school, which has been plagued by gun violence this year.
The injured officer, identified by the Knoxville Police Department as Adam Willson, a school resource officer at the high school and a 20-year veteran of the force, is expected to recover.
“During investigations, agents discover facts that may clarify initial reports,” the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in a statement on Wednesday. “This is why our agency uses terms in our releases such as ‘preliminary,’ ‘possibly,’ and ‘reportedly.'”
A spokesman for the Knoxville Police Department declined to comment on Wednesday night, saying it would not be appropriate until the bureau and the district attorney general had completed their review of the case.
The bureau, which is led by David B. Rausch, a former Knoxville police chief, presides over all investigations of shootings involving officers in Tennessee.
It said that the deadly encounter had begun on Monday afternoon when Knoxville police officers received a report that a student was possibly armed with a gun. When officers confronted Anthony in a restroom, a struggle ensued and his gun was fired, according to the bureau, which said that two bullets had been fired at him.
It was not immediately clear which of the officers had fired the shots at the teenager or how many bullets had struck him. Efforts to reach his family on Wednesday night were not immediately successful.
A spokeswoman for the bureau referred further questions to the Office of the District Attorney General for Knox County, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday night.
Charme P. Allen, the district attorney general, has faced pressure, from people including Indya Kincannon, the Knoxville mayor, to release body camera footage from the officers who were involved in the encounter.
“I hear and feel the frustration, pain and anguish as we grapple with the tragic shooting inside Austin-East High School,” Ms. Kincannon said Wednesday on Twitter. “I support releasing any incident videos to the media & public as soon as it is legally allowed.”
Ms. Kincannon said there were complications over the release of the body camera footage because it had been taken inside a school and involved a minor. She said that Ms. Allen had declined requests to make the footage public.
“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,” she said. “I will continue to push for transparency and communication as this investigation continues.”
At the time of Monday’s shooting, Austin-East High School was still reeling from the fatal shootings of four students since January, The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported.
In late January, a 15-year-old student died after another teenager accidentally shot him in a car, the newspaper reported, citing information from the police. A 17-year-old was arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide in that shooting, the paper reported.
On Feb. 12, a 16-year-old student was shot and killed as he was driving home from school, the paper reported. Two boys, 14 and 16, were arrested and charged in connection with his death, The News-Sentinel said.
Four days later, on Feb. 16, a 15-year-old freshman was found shot outside her home and was later pronounced dead at a hospital, The News-Sentinel reported.
And on March 10, another 15-year-old student died at a hospital one day after he was found with a gunshot wound in south Knoxville.