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Gone too soon: Monday's shooting just the latest incident as school, community confront violence

Four Austin-East students have been homicide victims this year.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Monday's shooting is just the latest violence this year tied to Austin-East High School, an inner-city school with decades of tradition and devoted parents, teachers and students.

Since February, three current or former Austin-East students have been shot and killed in what authorities say were deliberate killings. One, Stanley Freeman Jr., was shot to death allegedly by two young teens as he was leaving school in February.

Another student died in what authorities say was an accidental shooting with an acquaintance.

The city of Knoxville, parents, students, faith leaders and community groups have been working to address gun violence in Knoxville. They say the school itself has always been safe; they blame multiple other factors for the ongoing violence.

The victims, who have become household names in the greater Knoxville community:

Justin Taylor, age 15: Justin was with an older teen friend Jan. 27 in a vehicle on Shelbourne Road in Northeast Knoxville.

According to a police report, Justin was shot from the backseat of the car, and the driver continued on for 15 minutes to Western Heights Baptist Center.

Credit: WBIR Staff

That’s where police found his body still in the car.

"He was just so full of life, he loved everybody. It's like he didn't care about himself, he put everybody else first," said Stefanie Taylor, his mother.

The young suspect was later charged in Knox County Juvenile Court.

Stanley Freeman Jr. age 16: Stanley was shot and killed the afternoon of Feb. 12 as he was leaving Austin-East. Friends and family described him as a loving, hard-working young man who was heading home to get ready for his after-school job.

Authorities say two boys, one 14 and one 16, lay in wait for Freeman and then attacked him as he drove away, within sight of the school. Both fired weapons at Stanley's Honda. 

Stanley lost control of the vehicle. He was later pronounced dead.

Police found multiple shell casings from a pistol and a 7.62x39 semiautomatic rifle at the shooting scene on Tarleton Avenue.

The defendants are identified as Deondre Davis, 16, and Rashan Jordan, 14. They're being held pending prosecution and face a June 18 court date.

Prosecutors are seeking to have both transferred from Knox County Juvenile Court to Knox County Criminal Court to be tried as adults.

Janaria Muhammad, age 15:

Janaria, also known as "NaNa", was found shot to death the night of Feb. 16 in the street near Cherry Street.

Her killing remains unsolved.

"Janaria was an outspoken young lady, she was an outgoing young lady," Jacqueline Muhammad, Janaria's mother, told 10News. 

Credit: WBIR Staff
Janaria Muhammad, 15, was a freshman at Austin-East High School in Knoxville.

Janaria loved life and lived it with an effervescence everyone who knew her was blessed to bask in.

"Her spirit was unbelievable. She had a glow and a smile to her face that would make anyone love," Jacqueline said. 

Jamarion "Lil Dada" Gillette, age 15: Gillette, who had left Austin-East the previous fall, was found shot and wounded early March 10 in South Knoxville along Cherokee Trail.

A stranger found him and took him to nearby University of Tennessee Medical Center, where police said he later died.

Police continue to investigate his death and how he ended up on Cherokee Trail, a remote area up above Fort Loudoun Lake that's dotted with multiple student apartment complexes and condos.

Credit: Submitted
Jamarion Gillette, 15, shot to death overnight in Knoxville.

Jamarion loved music and had ambitions of being a rapper.

Authorities had been trying to find him for many months. He'd been a runaway from a Cumberland County youth center and was in the custody of the state Department of Children's Service's.

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