Knoxville officer who fatally shot teen in high school bathroom won't face charges, DA says
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The officer who shot and killed 17-year-old Anthony J. Thompson, Jr. in a restroom at Austin-East Magnet High School on April 12 will not face criminal charges.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen said Officer Jonathon Clabough’s actions were justified under Tennessee’s self-defense law.
Conflicting information previously distributed by investigators caused a major outcry for the bodycam footage to be released.
In its initial news release, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations (TBI) said police confronted Thompson in the school restroom where they initially accused him of firing shots that struck an officer and said that one officer returned fire, killing him.
RELATED: Tennessee school shooting: 1 student dead, officer shot and injured, Knoxville police say
wo days later, TBI published an update that changed the initial narrative. They admitted the bullet that wounded the officer had not been fired by the student’s gun.
After pressure from protesters, activists, Mayor Indya Kincannon and a judge, Allen released the footage to the public.
The video indicates police received a call from the mother of Thompson’s ex-girlfriend claiming that he’d abused her daughter.
Four officers responded to the school and went to the restroom unaware that Thompson had a gun, Allen said.
As they handcuffed him, the gun in Thompson’s pocket went off and the bullet struck a nearby trashcan. Allen said the officers were confused by the gunfire and thought their lives were in danger.
Allen said Officer Clabough drew his weapon and fired at Thompson, who collapsed to the floor after being struck in the shoulder.
Clabough fired again, accidentally striking Officer Adam Wilson in the leg, the Associated Press reported.
The footage shows police handcuffing a separate student who happened to be in one of the stalls during the incident. The student pleaded with officers to tend to Thompson, who officers didn’t realize had been shot until they turned him over and saw a large stream of blood.
They called the school nurse for help, but medical examiners later determined there was nothing the nurse or officers could have done to treat Thompson’s wound, officials said.
After Wednesday’s news conference, Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas applauded Allen’s decision not to pursue charges.
"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," she said in a statement posted to the department’s Facebook page.
Thomas also called the entire ordeal 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," Thomas said. "My thoughts are also with our officers, who will carry the burden and trauma of this for the rest of their lives."
Mayor Kincannon shared similar sympathies in her statement — calling for everyone to remember "our shared humanity as we watch these events unfold on video."
"Watching the video, my heart breaks again for Anthony. His life matters, and he is gone too soon," Kincannon said in a Facebook post. "My heart breaks for his family, and those who loved him. No parent should have to bury their child, and my prayers are with them as they continue to mourn."
"My heart breaks for the young man who witnessed a friend’s death — and experienced a trauma no young person should have to experience. It breaks for the officers, whose lives are forever changed, as well," Kincannon continued.
According to the Associated Press, Allen has never pressed charges in nearly a dozen police shooting cases she’s investigated.
Allen said she spent four hours with Thompson’s family going over every detail of the video.
This story was reported from Atlanta. The Associated Press contributed.