KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A Knoxville man will spend 10 months in federal prison for illegally buying a gun for an Austin-East High School student who ended up dying in an armed confrontation with police in a bathroom.
U.S. District Court Judge Katherine A. Crytzer imposed the sentence Thursday afternoon on Kelvon Foster, 22. After he finishes his federal prison term, Foster will be on supervised release for two years, the judge ordered.
Foster has pleaded guilty to buying a 9mm pistol in April 2021 for Anthony Thompson Jr., age 17. The federal crime is referred to as a "straw purchase."
About two weeks later, Thompson had the loaded gun with him in an Austin-East bathroom when Knoxville police confronted him over a complaint that he'd assaulted a girlfriend.
During the close encounter with officers, Thompson's gun fired and a Knoxville officer fired his weapon, with one bullet hitting the young man in the chest and another hitting a fellow officer in the thigh.
Thompson, who had known Foster since he was a child, gave Foster cash and marijuana for the gun purchase, authorities have said. But buying that gun for Thompson created circumstances that led to Thompson's death, authorities said.
Foster had bought other guns illegally for people, authorities said.
Attorneys for Foster have said he was devastated about what happened to Thompson.
Foster is a "very responsible and very remorseful young man," his lawyer said. She argued Foster grew up in a rough environment, after seeing his first murder at 7 years old.
"It's not normal for a 7-year-old to be surrounded by flying projectiles and gasping bodies," the defense lawyer said.
Foster made a statement to the court, too. He apologized to Thompson Jr's family and his family and said he keeps a picture of Anthony Thompson Jr on his wall.
U.S. Attorney Trey Hamilton issued a statement after the sentencing.
"In most straw purchasing cases, the harm is understood but often theoretical. In this case, the harm was real and tragic. The laws prohibiting certain persons from purchasing firearms are there for a reason, and my office, and our law enforcement partners, will continue pursuing these cases to the fullest extent of the law.”
The prosecution and the defense asked Judge Crytzer not to immediately remand Foster into custody. Instead, they asked, and the judge granted the request, for Foster to stay out on his existing bond conditions while the Federal Bureau of Prisons finds a correctional facility for him.