Authorities have charged two men in connection to the fatal shooting of Zaevion Dobson, the former Fulton High School football player who died last December while shielding several of his friends from gunfire.
Christopher Bassett and Richard Gregory Williams III were each charged with first-degree murder, the Knox County District Attorney General's Office announced Thursday.
In addition, a grand jury indicted each of them with eight counts of attempted first degree murder and a string of firearm possession charges.
They are being held on $1 million bond. An arraignment hearing in Knox County Criminal Court has not been set.
Bassett is serving a prison sentence at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center on unrelated charges. Williams is at the Knox County jail.
DA Charme Allen made the announcement during a brief press conference. She declined to take questions.
Afterward, Fulton High School principal Rob Speas told WBIR 10News that he hopes the news "brings some peace to Dobson's mother and two brothers.
"We are glad that the investigation in Zaevion’s murder is coming to a close," Speas said. "The efforts of Knoxville Police Department in this case and their commitment to reduce violence in our city are greatly appreciated."
Christopher Bassett & Richard Williams charged w/1st Degree Murder in December shooting death of Zaevion Dobson. pic.twitter.com/BScqWiPODq— Knoxville Police (@Knoxville_PD) August 25, 2016
Dobson, a 15-year-old sophomore, was hanging out with friends on a front porch on the evening of Dec. 17 evening when gunmen or a gunman fired randomly in the Lonsdale neighborhood where he lived.
Dobson blocked the shots with his body, saving friends Faith Gordon, 17, and Kiara Rucker, 16. They were on the front porch of Gordon's aunt. Dobson died that night.
In the hours following Dobson’s death, Bassett, 20, admitted to shooting the high school student, a Knoxville police investigator testified in late January.
The grand jury presentment says Bassett and Williams were on their way to kill Dobson; his older brother, Zack; his cousin, Louis McNair; Gordon; Rucker; Xavier Malone, the quarterback for Fulton’s football team; Latasha Colbert, the neighbor who called 911 after the shooting; and her son, Jashaun, and daughter, Jayla.
Police initially charged Bassett with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and violation of probation. During his preliminary hearing, investigator A.J. Loeffler testified that Bassett admitted to shooting toward a crowd in the Lonsdale neighborhood with Brandon Perry on the night of Dec. 17, when Dobson was killed.
Loeffler said Bassett told him they went to the Lonsdale neighborhood in retaliation for a gang-related shooting earlier in the night. Police said the group arrived and randomly began shooting because Perry's mother had been injured by gunfire earlier that night.
A few hours later, Perry was shot and crashed Bassett's BMW into an apartment building. Bassett was riding in the car. Loeffler said security cameras captured the shooting, and that another car drove up to the group, and fired on the Bassett vehicle.
Brandon Perry would later die at the hospital. Bassett was taken for an interview with police, but was not initially a suspect in a crime, said Loeffler.
Police captured Williams in early April after he was involved in a hit-and-run near the Old City in a car he was driving.
REMEMBERING ZAEVION DOBSON
Since his death, Dobson's been honored throughout the country for his actions.
President Obama has acknowledged Dobson's selflessness, calling it, “An act of heroism a lot bigger than anything we should ever expect from a 15-year-old.”
Zaevion Dobson died saving three friends from getting shot. He was a hero at 15. What's our excuse for not acting? https://t.co/hn98uGsjKZ— President Obama (@POTUS) December 20, 2015
And in July, Dobson posthumously received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2016 ESPYs for giving his life.
His name also is forever etched in the Knoxville community.
T-shirts bearing his name and football jersey number were worn by friends and classmates; his number - 24 - was placed on Fulton’s new football field; the city will soon name a community park in Lonsdale after him; and two scholarships were created in his honor.
In addition, his death sparked a dialogue to address the issue of gun violence.
A Stop the Violence forum at Fulton High School brought local, law enforcement, and religious leaders together with the community to talk about the problems facing the city’s youth, and how to address them.
Out of that forum and continued efforts, the idea for a new place for Knoxville’s young people to gather and enjoy was born.
The Change Center, projected to open in 2017, will be located on Harriet Tubman Street, a safe and entertaining place for teens and young adults to hang out on evenings and weekends.
It will include a multi-purpose sports venue, roller skating rink, concert stage, movie wall, game room, places to eat, and a job center.