Knoxville, TN – The mother of the 17-year-old boy fatally shot by police in the bathroom of a Knoxville high school filed a federal lawsuit on Monday claiming that officers failed to follow proper policy and procedures when they shot the her son.
The announcement of Chanada Robinson’s lawsuit against the city of Knoxville, the Knox County Board of Education, the Knoxville Police Department (KPD), and the four officers involved in the shooting on April 11 fell one day short of the anniversary of 17-year-old Anthony Thompson, Jr.’s death, WBIR reported.
Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen said at a press conference when she released the bodycam video that the incident began at 12:30 p.m. on April 12, 2021 when Thompson “got into a domestic squabble with another student.”
Then he got into another “domestic incident” with his ex-girlfriend at 12:48 p.m. and Allen said those domestic incidents were “the impetus to the whole’s day trajectory.”
The ex-girlfriend went home from school to get away from Thompson after the second altercation and her mother, Regina Perkins, texted Thompson and told him she had called the police.
Then Perkins called 911 and reported the assault on her daughter.
Knoxville Police Officer Jonathan Clabough was part of a team of officers that worked with school security to find Thompson and a friend hiding in a school bathroom.
Allen said the school resource officer, Knoxville Police Officer Adam Willson, had warned the other officers that Thompson had a history of being “someone who fights, runs or resists.”
The officers went into the bathroom and surrounded the stall, bodycam video showed.
When the officers tried to take the 17 year old into custody, he resisted.
That’s when Officer Clabough saw Thompson’s hand on a pistol in the front pocket of his hoodie, according to the district attorney.
Allen described the officer’s mindset saying, “He thinks, ‘I’m about to die,’” the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
Officers attempted to take the gun away from Thompson and a shot was fired during the struggle.
Allen said the bullet went through a trash can in the bathroom, but Officer Clabough believed Thompson had shot Knoxville Police Officer Brian Baldwin, so he fired his weapon at the teen.
Allen said Officer Clabough fired a second shot because he believed Thompson was about to shoot Knoxville Police Lieutenant Stanley Cash, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
Officer Willson was shot during the melee but survived.
The district attorney said that the bullets that struck Officer Willson and killed Thompson were both fired by Officer Clabough, WVLT reported.
The medical examiner described Thompson’s wound as “a devastating, non-recovering, life-ending injury.”
The district attorney said her office wouldn’t be bringing charges against Officer Clabough or any of the other officers involved in the incident because their actions were justified under Tennessee law, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
The district attorney was clear while describing her conclusion about what happened.
“This is a self-defense case,” Allen told reporters. “At the end of the day, we have found the shooting by Officer Clabough was justified.”
The Knoxville mayor also showed her support for the officers, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
“From my view of the video, it was a very challenging situation for our officers, and they had to act in a very short time period — 11 seconds,” Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon told reporters after the announcement. “Eleven seconds where they saw a gun and they thought one of their fellow officers was shot.
“They thought the safety of themselves and the others were at risk. So, yeah, I think that those conclusions were fair,” Kincannon said.
Thompson’s mother’s lawsuit alleged that Tennessee Bureau of Investigations (TBI) investigators interviewed her immediately after the shooting but wouldn’t tell her what had happened to her son, WBIR reported.
“Anthony’s mother has suffered the most devastating emotional distress and anguish imagined by humankind,” the lawsuit read.
The suit claimed it took the teen’s family several days to track down his dead body, WBIR reported.
“[Robinson] has repeatedly requested to meet with various officials, but all have refused,” the complaint read. “Mother believes this is because the city ‘just wants Anthony to disappear.'”
Robinson claimed in her lawsuit that her son was carrying a gun because he was afraid of his girlfriend’s family, WBIR reported.
She also claimed that officers failed to render aid to her wounded son after they shot him, according to the complaint.
“No one checked a pulse of offered basic CPR,” the lawsuit read. “Officers did nothing except search and restrain Anthony, offer Officer Willson a tourniquet, while Officer Cash stepped over Anthony’s prone body to wash his hands of Anthony’s blood.”
“Instead of attempting to provide any medical treatment, the officers focused on restraining Anthony, even though he was clearly unconscious and handcuffed on the floor,” according to the complaint.
The lawsuit accused police or the school district of not following a 2019 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between Knox County Schools and Knoxville police that would have “likely would have saved Anthony’s life,” WBIR reported.
In the complaint, Thompson’s mother asked the court to order Knoxville and Knox County to adopt a series of policies they called “Anthony’s Laws.”
The proposed policies would ban police from making arrests at school unless absolutely necessary to protect the immediate safety of other students and staff, WBIR reported.
“Anthony’s Law” would also require all Knoxville police to take 80 hours of training on de-escalation, crisis intervention, and the MOA.
The new policy would require police to warn students they are subject to physical force if they don’t comply before actually using force, WBIR reported.
It would also prohibited investigators from interviewing next of kin until 24 after the shooting.