KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A 16-year-old shot and killed a man in East Knoxville after a fight about a cupcake at a child's birthday party on Halloween, a newly-completed autopsy report said.
J'Michael Dossett, 26, was at his child's birthday party on Catalpa Avenue when some of the kids began playing with cupcakes, the report said. One child smeared frosting in Dossett's child's hair.
Dossett's ex-girlfriend "became upset about the frosting as it had ruined her child's hair and an argument ensued," the report said. As it escalated, her 16-year-old brother stood in between them.
"[Dossett] fired his .380 caliber pistol into the air as a warning shot," the report said. The 16-year-old then shot Dossett four times with a 9mm pistol, killing him.
The teenager, now 17, faces manslaughter charges. He is one of at least six juveniles Knoxville Police arrested for killing people with guns last year.
In response to the violence, the city named LaKenya Middlebrook director of a newly-former Office of Community Safety.
"[To] interrupt the cycle of violence and help folks in our community so that violence is not the choice that they make," she said.
Her team has established new grant programs and works with existing grassroots organizations to expand their capacity to help prevent violence, Middlebrook said.
"When folks are connected to community, they become accountable to community," she said.
Organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of the Tennessee Valley also work to provide teenagers with something to do — and something to look forward to, through career and college programs.
"An idle mind is the devil’s workshop as they say, so if we can keep their mind on other things, keep them active and engaged — whether it’s academic sports, dance you name it, it gives that child an opportunity to succeed," said Chief Operating Officer Markus Jackson.
"If they’re involved in programs such as Boys and Girls Club, then they’re less likely to be out doing something else. That’s why it’s so critical for us to continue to provide this level of services and programs for teens," he said.
It's working with community partners like the Boys and Girls Club that gives LaKenya Middlebrook hope in 2022 — for fewer shootings and fewer teenagers pulling the trigger.
"When you see the people around you who are so invested in it, it makes you understand that you’re not in it by yourself, we’re all in this together and that is really really really encouraging," she said. "I always encourage people to step back and think about what they can contribute and then start from there."