KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (NewsNation Now) — A Tennessee community is demanding police release bodycam footage after a Knoxville high school student was fatally shot by officers in a school bathroom after a fight involving another student.
Regina Perkins said she called police last Monday on 17-year-old Anthony J. Thompson Jr., after a physical fight involving her daughter, who was Thompson’s girlfriend, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
Police said Thompson had a gun inside Austin-East Magnet High School in east Knoxville and was shot to death in a confrontation with officers in a bathroom.
Hours after the shooting, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released preliminary findings, detailing the events that lead up to Thompson’s death. However, two days later the TBI changed its report. They now say that while Thompson did fire a gun during the incident, the bullet that struck officer Adam Wilson was not fired by Thompson’s weapon.
On Saturday, dozens of community members protested in front of the Knoxville Police Department headquarters demanding the release of bodycam footage from the shooting; they say they want to see what really happened.
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“We want complete transparency in this case. We demand the tapes,” said one community member during a rally. “I should not have to deal with he said, she said over something that should be cut and dry. Be honest with us.”
Knox County District Attorney Charme Allen has denied requests to release video footage of the shooting. Despite pressure from both the community and Knoxville Mayor, Allen has yet to release the footage. She says releasing the video now could complicate the investigation.
“To release the video, for it to be out there to be viewed by potential witnesses before they give statements could potentially taint the criminal integrity of this case; so, I can not release that body camera video at this point,” Allen said.
In addition to the mayor, the Knoxville Police Department’s police chief also supports releasing the video, as well as the three of the four officers who were placed on leave following the shooting.
Perkins said Thompson and her daughter, a junior, had dated for nine months. The girl called Perkins from an assistant principal’s office earlier Monday, saying she was upset and wanted to leave school early. Perkins said she allowed her to sign out and go home, where the girl indicated she and Thompson got into a scuffle during an argument.
Perkins said she tried without success to reach Thompson’s mother before calling police. An officer came to her home to take a statement. Perkins said she also exchanged text messages with Thompson, telling him that an officer would be coming to the school.
“Anthony was aware that I had called the police and made a report,” Perkins said.
Not long after that, Perkins said she saw a helicopter above the school and learned that the school was on lockdown. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said police responded to a report of a possible gunman about 15 minutes before the school’s 3:30 p.m. dismissal.
Perkins said she now wishes she had never called police.
“I am so sorry, and I never meant for anything to happen to him,” Perkins said. “We are mourning, my daughter is grieving the loss of her first love and we also want answers and justice in this case.”
During the shooting, a school resource officer was wounded by a gunshot, which the TBI said did not come from the student’s gun, raising the possibility that the officer could have been hit by police gunfire. The resource officer was shot in the leg and is recovering after surgery.
The shooting occurred as the community reels from off-campus gun violence that has left three other Austin-East students dead this year.
It also comes as more classrooms are reopening to students after months of remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic, a period that saw a drop in mass killings in the U.S. The nation has seen a series of mass shootings in recent weeks.
The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WATE contribute to this report.