KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon and Police Chief Eve Thomas are proposing new measures to combat and prevent violence in East Knoxville after three Austin-East students died in separate shootings within the span of a few weeks.
15-year-old Justin Taylor, 16-year-old Stanley Freeman Jr., and now 15-year-old Janaria Muhammad died in shootings. Investigators continue to plead with anyone that may have seen the shootings or have information, no matter how small, to come forward -- saying they can remain anonymous.
“We still need help. We need somebody… anybody.. who witnessed these events, no matter how small or inconsequential, to volunteer and come forward with information that they have,” Thomas said.
In response the shootings, the Knoxville Police Department will be greatly increasing its presence in the community surrounding Austin-East High School.
Specifically, Thomas said they will be moving three more school resource officers to Austin-East, and officers will be visibly increasing their presence at all hours with more patrols in hot spots where "crime is occurring or likely to occur."
Mayor Kincannon said she will be proposing a $1 million amendment to the city budget to city council next week to jumpstart community-based violence prevention and interruption programs, saying these programs have proven effective at reducing violence elsewhere in the U.S.
"[The people in this neighborhood] are tired of shootings. They want KPD to help catch the bad guys. These are law abiding people trying to live their lives,” Kincannon said.
Thomas said investigators continue to make progress in identifying suspects, but said they are not ready to release information publicly yet. She said KPD's violent crime reduction team has arrested several known violent offenders.
Thomas said , anecdotally, gang presence and drug trafficking have increased and are going hand-in-hand with the recent violence. KPD has escalated it efforts to curb these, but said they need info from the community to proactively stop something before it happens.