KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Knoxville Police Department said one student is dead and an officer is recovering from non-life-threatening wounds after an officer-involved shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School on Monday afternoon. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is involved, and KPD has detained one additional person in the investigation.
The TBI said the officers initially responded to reports of an armed person at the school, and were met with gunfire after approaching the suspect, identified as a student, in a bathroom. An officer returned fire, hitting the student. One officer was wounded in the exchange, the TBI said.
For the East Knoxville community, they said this is like a wound that keeps reopening. A rise in gun violence involving children has gripped the community in recent months that has left four other teens dead who attended or formerly attended Austin-East.
For those that focused on pouring into these kids at Austin-East -- the events Monday were personal.
"We over here in East Knoxville, we're gonna rise above this and we're gonna stand strong, because together we will make a difference and an impact," Lawrence Williams said.
Williams is a life-long East Knoxville resident and the founder of Safe Haven Empowerment House, which focuses on building young people up to prevent violence.
"In order to put a dent in this violence, you got to talk with the folks that're dealing with the violence," he said. "For that to happen over there, what it does is give us a black eye."
As news of the shooting broke, the state and nation offered their thoughts and prayers to this East Knoxville community.
Shortly after the shooting was reported, Governor Bill Lee spoke about it during a briefing on education, asking for people to pray for those who were affected.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn released the following statement:
“As details continue to emerge, our thoughts are with every member of the school community in Knoxville who is dealing with the immediate impacts of the shooting that took place this afternoon. The department stands ready to provide support. It is time to wrap arms around the affected students, educators, school staff, their families, and the entire community, to support them through this horrific tragedy.”
Knoxville State Representative Sam McKenzie (D-District 15), who is a graduate of Austin-East and represents the district where the school is located, released a statement:
“I am at a loss to describe my sadness as yet another horrific act of gun violence has happened in my community. Austin-East High School is my alma mater and my heart goes out to the students, faculty and staff that were present for the senseless shooting today. I do not have the necessary words to convey my thoughts about the spiraling violent acts conducted by members of my community on members of my community. I am asking everyone that knows and loves East Knoxville to pray and contemplate the lives we have lost. I am also asking that we reclaim the sanctity of our beloved neighborhood! This is the fourth unnecessary shooting involving the Austin East community this year and we must make sure we take every step and make every effort to prevent these tragedies from continuing to occur.”
U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) issued a statement:
“I am heartbroken to hear about the shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville. My office has been briefed on the situation and I am praying for the community, including the officer injured in the line of duty.”
Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs said in a statement he is "as troubled and frustrated about this as everyone else."
"I want to thank the officer for risking his life to protect everyone in the school and encourage everyone to remember how hard these last few months have been on our Austin-East families," he said. "I also want to reiterate that my office is committed to working with the city, KPD, KCSO and KCS to find solutions to these tragic situations."
Bishop Richard F. Stika of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville has issued this statement:
“Once again and regrettably, I am asking for prayers for the victims of another terrible shooting in Knoxville. I have been monitoring today’s unfortunate and violent incident and offer my personal prayers for all of the victims, including a law enforcement officer. The series of tragic events that has taken place in recent weeks in Knoxville, especially involving the Austin-East community, and those that have taken place throughout the United States, demonstrate that violence in our society remains a serious, almost daily occurrence and that it claims victims in many different ways. As a nation, we must commit ourselves to work to turn away from violence and find real solutions that lead us to love, compassion, and decency. As Bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville, I pledge to do what I can to help. Prayers are important, but communities must come together to find positive solutions to this ongoing problem in our country.”