The Knox County District Attorney’s Office has released police body camera footage and other details regarding the shooting death of 17-year-old Anthony J. Thompson Jr. at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville, Tenn., and it has been determined that the officers involved in the shooting will not face criminal charges. It’s an end to a tragic story that is not likely to leave advocates for police accountability satisfied, many of whom would argue that the new details prove one thing: Anthony would still be alive if cops weren’t so quick to pull the trigger on Black suspects.
ABC 9 reports that District Attorney General Charme Allen spoke during a news conference Wednesday and revealed new details about the incident that occurred earlier this month. As The Root previously reported, law enforcement officials originally reported that Anthony shot one of the officers before being shot himself, but later they corrected the report saying the bullet that hit the officer didn’t come from Anthony’s gun and that the gun had gone off during a struggle. On Wednesday, Allen revealed that the bullet that struck Officer Adam Wilson in the leg was actually fired from the gun of one of the other officers involved in Anthony’s death.
She also discussed how the incident began when the mother of Anthony’s girlfriend called the police to report allegations of abuse and showed body-cam footage that revealed that the mother and daughter said Anthony had a gun but did not know if he had it with him at school. This is a departure from the mother’s earlier claim that she never indicated the teen was armed at all.
Allen also played footage from the shooting during the news conference.
Body camera video shows a scuffle broke out between Thompson and three officers over a gun that was in Thompson’s pocket.
In the video, you can hear shots fired, and Thompson went to the ground. Officer Willson was also injured, and was dragged out of the bathroom by another officer.
Another student could be seen in the video, crying and begging for officers to help Thompson, who was bleeding on the floor.
Allen says Officer Jonathan Clabough was the only officer to fire, and bullet analysis revealed he shot both Thompson and Officer Willson. The district attorney says a shot went off from Thompson’s gun and hit a trash can in the bathroom.
Allen said when interviewed later, Clabough claimed self defense, saying he believed his life was in danger from Thompson. Allen said Clabough’s claim was justified based on the body camera footage and other evidence recovered.
One could easily argue that a single, accidental shot coming from Anthony’s gun during a struggle does not justify Clabough shooting to kill, but we know that all a cop has to say is that they were afraid for their life and in the eyes of law enforcement and the justice system, almost any use of force can be justified.
Allen also said that she spent time with Anthony’s family who had viewed the body-cam footage before the press conference and that they had requested that the footage not be released until after Anthony’s funeral. Allen said she had to deny that request because, “there have been media, community leaders, and activist groups who have all demanded answers, which they are entitled to.”
According to Knox News, regardless of the DA’s decision not to prosecute the officers, the Knoxville Police Department will conduct an internal investigation into Anthony’s shooting to determine whether any disciplinary action is warranted.
“While that review is underway, the involved officers will remain on paid administrative leave for an undetermined amount of time,” KPD Spokesperson Scott Erland told Knox News.
I wouldn’t hold my breath in hopes that the review will change anything about this tragic case’s outcome.