Fear and Silence: Crime in East Knoxville

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Knoxville (WVLT) - Police are questioning several people who might have seen a man killed in the parking lot of an East Knoxville convenience store.

Police say 33-year-old Terry Roundtree had just gotten out of his car at the Bi-Lo convenience store on MLK Avenue at around 4:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon, when a man came up and shot him.

He died before arriving at UT Medical Center.

Roundtree has a criminal record dating back at least two years.

Police won't talk about a motive for his murder until interviews are finished.

Therein lies the problem.

Volunteer TV's Gordon Boyd tells us Roundtree's killing has given police some of the same roadblocks they're facing in solving another killing in Western Heights this past weekend.

Getting folks to say, what they probably saw. Maybe they saw it coming. Likely, they don't want it coming back on them.

"The surveillance video doesn't show the actual crime being committed," says Detective Sergeant Tim Snoderly.

But Bi-Lo's security cameras would appear to give police most everything leading up Terry Roundtree's killing.

Add in shell casings, and fellow customers who could be witnesses, except "it plainly shows them on the video watching the assault take place and they coming and tell us, they didn't see a thing," Snoderly says. "They could be afraid of some retaliation or just be a code that they have, they're not gonna rat on somebody, they're not gonna tell on somebody."

Ironically, such reluctance may have helped keep Terry Roundtree out of prison two years ago. His records show convictions for possessing, or dealing drugs, including cocaine.

But prosecutors had to drop charges of attempted murder, kidnapping and assault when the alleged victims, folks with criminal records themselves, either couldn't be found, recanted, or refused to come forward.

"You have the story of David, who goes to see his brothers, and encounters Goliath. And everyone seems so passive about it; and David raises the question, is there not a cause?
Is there not a reason, are we not stirred, what will it take to stir us?" says Rev. Richard S. Brown, Jr., from Payne Avenue Missionary Baptist.

For ten years, the Reverend Richard Brown Junior has pastored the church not 100 yards from where Terry Roundtree died.

He sees the crime, as time to turn Christian talk into neighborhood action. "If it is going to change, then we are the individuals who are going to have to step to the forefront to bring about the change.

"That's happened to us in the past, where some of the neighborhood citizens went out and actually helped us with this," Detective Tim Snoderly admits sometimes, the badges and uniforms can be a barrier, that many folks don't want their neighbors knowing they're talking, helping the law.

He and the Reverend Brown agree, it's about building folks' trust, such that beyond being the Good Samaritan.

"I want to look at it and say, why not make the Jericho Road safer?" The Reverend Brown says he'll focus part of this Sunday's sermon on broader responsibilities.

We mentioned the western heights killing this past weekend.

Informants have told police that 20-year-old Demarcus Huffine may know something about it.

Can you help detectives find him? Detectives simply want your info, not your name.

Again, if the code of silence is based on fear, police say keeping silent is what helps create the fear.