Exterior of Knoxville’s Austin-East Arts Magnet High School. (Photo: knoxschools.org)
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is leading the investigation into the incident, which occurred when Knoxville Police were summoned to Austin East for a report of an armed individual in the school
TBI Director David Rausch said in a Monday night press conference KPD officers confronted the student with the weapon in a bathroom and ordered him to put his gun down. Instead, the student, who has not been identified, shot one officer in the leg. The second officer opened fire, shooting and killing the armed student.
Neither police officer has been identified but Rausch said the wounded one was in serious condition and undergoing surgery at the time of the press briefing.
“This was supposed to be Youth Violence Interruption Week,” said Rausch. “This is a tough way to start a week you’re trying to keep people safe.”
Rausch spent 25 years with KPD and served as Chief of Police from 2011-2018.
The incident marks the fifth shooting death of an Austin East student in 2021.
On March 9, Austin East student Jamarion Gillette, 15, was shot and died the next day at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. On Feb. 16, Janaria Muhammad, also a 15-year-old Austin East student, was shot and killed near the school and Stanley Freeman, 16, was leaving Austin East Feb. 12 when he was shot. Freeman also died. And on January 27, student Justin Taylor, 15, was found unresponsive in his car and pronounced dead of one gunshot wound at the University of Tennessee Medical Center.
On Twitter, Gov. Bill Lee called the incident a “tragic situation” and wrote “We mourn the loss of life and commend law enforcement for their rapid response.”
The shooting came less than a week after Lee signed a law allowing people to carry handguns without obtaining a permit or training.
Other Tennessee elected officials weighed in, including State Rep. Sam McKenzie, D-Knoxville, a graduate of Austin East.
“I am at a loss to describe my sadness as yet another horrific act of gun violence has happened in my community. Austin-East High School is my alma mater and my heart goes out to the students, faculty and staff that were present for the senseless shooting today,” said State Rep. Sam McKenzie, D-Knoxville. “I do not have the necessary words to convey my thoughts about the spiraling violent acts conducted by members of my community on members of my community.”
“I am asking everyone that knows and loves East Knoxville to pray and contemplate the lives we have lost. I am also asking that we reclaim the sanctity of our beloved neighborhood! This is the fourth unnecessary shooting involving the Austin East community this year and we must make sure we take every step and make every effort to prevent these tragedies from continuing to occur.”
U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn
“I am heartbroken to hear about the shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville. My office has been briefed on the situation and I am praying for the community, including the officer injured in the line of duty.”
U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty
“After hearing about the shooting, my heart goes out to Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville. My staff & I continue to monitor the situation, & will provide any assistance necessary. As parents, Chrissy & I are praying for the students, families, & the officer injured.”
U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-District 2
“We need to pray for healing in our community and for the officer who was shot today and those affected by this senseless violence.”
Tennessee Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn
“As details continue to emerge, our thoughts are with every member of the school community in Knoxville who is dealing with the immediate impacts of the shooting that took place this afternoon. The department stands ready to provide support. It is time to wrap arms around the affected students, educators, school staff, their families, and the entire community, to support them through this horrific tragedy.”
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