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'Angry, hurt, sad' | East Knoxville neighbors working for change following teen shootings

"It's scary because I used to go to school for sanctuary," one community member said. "It's a different feeling to know they're scared to go to school."

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — At church on Sunday morning, many East Knoxville congregations will hear sermons relating to Monday's officer-involved shooting at Austin-East High School.

That incident is still under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. It left 17-year-old Anthony Thompson Jr. dead and Knoxville Police Department Officer Adam Willson hospitalized.

"Speak to the issue from a biblical standpoint. Not sugarcoating anything, not trying to deflect anything. Yeah, this has happened, and this is real," said Richard Brown.

Brown is the Senior Pastor at Payne Avenue Missionary Baptist Church, right down the road from Austin-East.

He said prayer is important, but it's not the only answer.

"We have to be able to rise from our knees, from our praying position, and say, 'how do we move in a progressive manner?'" said Brown.

No one quite has that answer, as they process so many emotions. Sherene Jacobs, a community member of East Knoxville, said those emotions are mostly anger, pain and sadness.

People like her are trying to find a solution and heal the community.

"You, as a neighbor, have to jump in and help and be a part of it. We need to be the community, be the village that we used to be," said Jacobs.

She lives off Magnolia Avenue, and owns Perk City Coffee Shop.

That's where she met London Warrington, a mom on a mission to keep kids safe.

"It's scary, because I used to go to school for sanctuary. It's a different feeling to know they're scared to go to school," said Warrington.

Her daughter is a virtual student at Austin-East High School, so she wasn't at school the day of the shooting. But that doesn't mean Warrington didn't fear for the safety of other kids.

"As a parent all you have is anxiety. As a mom being right here, knowing that something bad was happening so close," she said.

Warrington said change has to start at home, and that takes a village to find the solutions.

"The moment your child's at school, and they feel like they have to get a weapon to protect themselves, with hundreds of adults around them to ask for help but still feel so very alone — we failed," she said.

Warrington is working with other moms from across Knoxville to start a conversation about how to protect kids and raise them so that they know they are loved.

"It's not an East Knoxville problem. It's not a Black problem. It's not a Black Knoxville problem. It's a problem," she said. "There are Caucasian students over at AE right now and they hurt. And they cried for their fellow classmates."

Warrington said parents all over the city are worried about protecting their kids.

"There's a mom in Karns and Powell that's going through what I'm going through, too. She might not be dodging bullets, but she's dealing with the same mentality that these kids don't trust us," said Warrington.

They'll start the conversation at a rally for the kids on Sunday at 2 p.m. in Chilhowee Park, with the hope that groups can come together for good.

"It's truly an opportunity for us to do something we never did before, but what we want to do so bad," said Warrington.