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Kincannon: 'Every day the video is not released undermines public trust'

The Knoxville mayor said Monday the community shouldn't have to wait months for the body camera from the April 12 Austin-East HS incident to be made public.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said Monday she was pushing to release video of the fatal April 12 confrontation between an Austin-East High School student and police "as soon as possible."

"Every day the video is not released undermines public trust," she told reporters Monday morning.

Kincannon's remarks come as Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen has said she will not release any evidence, including body camera video of Anthony Thompson Jr. scuffling with Knoxville Police Department officers in a school bathroom the afternoon of April 12.

On Friday afternoon, the city Law Department filed a petition in Knox County Criminal Court seeking clarification on whether it could make public the bodycam.

"I am hopeful and confident that we will succeed," Kincannon said. "We will not rest until we are able to release the video. The public has a right to see the video.

"KPD officers should be held accountable based on their actions and not on rumor."   

Kincannon last week said she'd approached Allen about releasing the video and was turned down.

Allen argued in a press conference last week that any release of information could hurt an ongoing Tennessee Bureau of Investigation review of the shooting. Interviews still were being conducted, and evidence was still being collected, the prosecutor said.

Allen said everyone would see the video "at some point."

Several KPD officers went into the school bathroom after being told a student had a gun. In the confrontation, they found Thompson, 17, to have a gun in his jacket. 

A shot was fired from Thompson's pistol, and KPD officers fired two shots. Thompson was killed and KPD School Resource Officer Adam Willson suffered a gunshot wound to the leg.

On Friday afternoon the city's legal department filed a petition in Knox County Criminal Court seeking clarification of a two-year-old order sought by Allen's office and approved by the court. It prohibited release of videos that were part of evidence in a criminal case that's pending.

The city, according to Law Director Charles Swanson, doesn't think release of KPD's bodycam video in the Thompson confrontation would violate the standing two-year order.

But it's asking the court for clarification.

It'll be up to Judge Steve Sword, senior judge on the bench, to consider the city's petition.

Kincannon said it's vital that there's mutual trust between the community and the city's Police Department. Releasing the bodycam video will help the public understand what happened in that high school bathroom, she said.

Credit: City of Knoxville
Section of city's petition filed in Criminal Court.

Three of the four officers involved in the April 12 confrontation said in a statement Friday they support release of the body camera video. KPD Police Chief Eve Thomas also has endorsed its release.

Kincannon said Monday she backed the purchase and use of KPD body cameras after her 2019 election. The mayor said she supports transparency.

The mayor said Monday a redacted version of the video could be made public that edits out private information such as faces. 

She said she also has reached out to Thompson's family to offer condolences and support for what they're going through. Authorities said they still were reviewing how Thompson ended up with a gun at school.

Thompson is the fifth Austin-East student to die this year in gun violence.

Justin Taylor, 15, was accidentally shot and killed, authorities say, when a friend was handling a gun in January in a vehicle.

Stanley Freeman Jr., 16, was shot and killed leaving school in February, allegedly by two juveniles. Janaria Muhammad, 15, was shot and killed days later on an East Knoxville street.

In March, Jamarion Gillette, 15, was found shot and wounded on Cherokee Trail in South Knoxville. A woman saw him, picked him up and took him to nearby University of Tennessee Medical Center, where he died.

No one has been charged in the killings of Janaria or Jamarion.