The officer who fatally shot a student who brought a gun to a Tennessee high school last week will not face criminal charges, officials announced Wednesday while reviewing officer-worn body camera footage with the public for the first time.
Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen said Knoxville police officer Jonathon Clabough was justified under the state’s self-defense law in the April 12 shooting of 17-year-old Anthony J. Thompson Jr. at Austin-East Magnet High School.
“It wasn’t an easy case; it wasn’t clean cut,” Allen told reporters during a news conference.
Allen also for the first time released the officer-worn body camera footage, surveillance footage, 911 audio and other documents surrounding the shooting.
Knoxville police work the scene of a shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School Monday, April 12, 2021, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Four officers had responded to the school after a domestic abuse call from the mother of Thompson’s former girlfriend. The officers went into a bathroom where they believed Thompson was, but Allen’s office said the officers did not know Thompson was carrying a handgun.
The altercation that followed lasted 11 seconds, Allen said.
The video shows the officers locating and then attempting to handcuff Thompson. One officer grabbed Thompson’s right arm, but Thompson’s left arm was in his sweatshirt pocket where the video shows he was holding a handgun. The barrel of the weapon could be seen poking through the pocket. Thompson’s weapon went off, hitting a trash can but not any of the officers.
Knoxville police work the scene following a shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville, Tenn., Monday, April 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
The shot confused the officers into thinking their lives were in danger and one of them was potentially injured, Allen said — pointing to the various statements they later gave investigators.
Clabough can be seen removing his weapon and shooting Thompson in the shoulder. Clabough fired his weapon again as Thompson fell to the ground with the officers surrounding him. Clabough’s second shot accidentally hit police Officer Adam Wilson in the leg.
Allen said the officers did not know Thompson had been shot until two minutes after handcuffing him and turning over his body. That’s when they saw the large amounts of blood and called the school nurse for medical assistance.
A medical examiner report showed that, because of the way Clabough shot Thompson, there was nothing the officers or school nurse could have done to save his life.
Knoxville police Chief Eve Thomas said in a statement that she was thankful the investigation determined that her officers’ actions were justified and “cleared of any wrongdoing.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.