KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On Wednesday, Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen released the body camera footage of the shooting that killed Anthony Thompson Jr. and injured SRO Adam Willson in an Austin East High School bathroom last Monday at the school.
With the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation looking into the officer-involved shooting aspect of this case and based on the bodycam video and other evidence, Allen said that Officer Jonathon Clabough was justified when he fired two shots in that bathroom and that he acted in his own self-defense and in the defense of the other officers.
Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas released a statement following the video's release and the DA's decision not to charge the officers:
"I want to express my gratitude to the Office of Attorney General Charme Allen and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for their tireless attention to this case and expediency in the completion of a comprehensive, independent investigation. I am thankful that those investigative efforts determined that the actions of our officers, under intense and unpredictable circumstances, were justified and they were cleared of any wrongdoing. My hope is that the release of the evidence in its totality provides a sense of clarity and answers the pressing questions that the community deserved to hear regarding the circumstances that led to this event. With that being said, this was an incredibly tragic and traumatic experience for everyone involved. Lives have been irrevocably altered by this event. My thoughts are with the family of Anthony Thompson Jr., to whom I extend my most heartfelt condolences and sympathies. My thoughts are also with our officers, who will carry the burden and trauma of this for the rest of their lives.”
Lawyers representing three of the four officers involved in this case issued a statement on Wednesday evening.
The statement said Clabough, Officer Brian Baldwin and Lt. Stanley Cash appreciate District Attorney General Charme Allen's work, and they believe in the importance of public trust and accountability. The statement said they look forward to returning to their duties and serving the city.
Chuck Burks, the attorney representing Willson, also gave comments after the video was released.
“I applaud the TBI and Charm Allen’s office because they have worked literally around the clock,” he said. “This is something that no officer ever wants to be confronted with but I think these officers did the best they could.”
Willson went into the bathroom first because he felt it was his school and his duty as the SRO to confront Anthony Thompson, according to Burks. He thought if Anthony saw him that he’d recognize a familiar face from the school and be more inclined to cooperate.
“It’s his school, it’s his watch,” Burks said.
Burks and General Allen both said none of the officers knew Thompson had a gun and "tried to do it as straightforward as possible” when approaching him in the bathroom.
In the video, it appears Anthony gave up his left hand but not his right. Willson put his hand on Anthony’s right wrist and realized Anthony had a gun, according to Burks.
According to General Allen, the officers believed Baldwin had been hit when Thompson's gun went off.
“He just holds on for dear life to keep him from hitting anybody. He didn’t know if Baldwin had been hit or not,” Burks said.
According to the bodycam video and Burks' statement, as Anthony was going down to the ground after Clabough's first shot, Willson went down to the ground on top of him “to keep him from shooting anybody.”
“In that line, he obviously put himself in harm’s way. By going down on top of him he felt like he was protecting the other officers in that room as well as himself," Burks said.
He didn’t know as the seconds went by that the gun had fallen to the ground, Burks said.
Clabough's second shot hit Willson in the leg, according to General Allen.
"He certainly does not blame Officer Clabough. Clabough was doing what he felt he needed to do. Quite frankly, that was something that happened in the course of trying to protect these officers, and he accepts that," said Burks.
Burks said his client “has a heart for that community and for that school.”
He said Willson was interviewed by the District Attorney's Office around 4 p.m. Tuesday.