Knoxville, TN – The district attorney announced Wednesday night that no charges would be filed against the officers involved in the shooting of 17-year-old Anthony Thompson at Austin-East High School and released bodycam video of the incident (video below).
Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen held a press conference on April 22 and walked the media through the bodycam videos of all four officers who were present when Thompson was shot.
“I have just spent four hours with [Thompson’s] family,” Allen said. “That was a painfully long and agonizing four hours for that family. The only thing the family asked me to do was not to release the video today.”
The district attorney acknowledged she had made “promise and commitment to the community” and said she would honor her word, but she also said the moral part of her found it fundamentally wrong.
Allen explained that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) had completed their investigation in nine days working in tandem with her office because it was the fifth death of an Austin-East student this year, it was an officer-involved shooting, it occurred inside a high school, and it involved a child.
She said that the mayor, the Knoxville police chief, and all four of the police officers involved had wanted the video released to the public as quickly as possible given the volatile environment that surrounded the officer-involved shooting, but she couldn’t do that until the investigation was completed because the officers involved had rights.
Allen said that she would explore having officers sign a due process waiver in the future.
“What has happened in this case has not been good for anybody,” she said, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
The district attorney was solid in 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 district attorney said the incident began at 12:30 p.m. on April 12 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 the butt-end of a pistol in the front pocket of his hoodie, according to the district attorney.
“He thinks, ‘I’m about to die,'” Allen described the officer’s mindset, 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.
“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.
Watch the incident unfold in the bodycam videos below. WARNING – Graphic Content: