WVLT, Knoxville news outlets, request release of police body camera video from deadly officer-involved shooting at Austin-East High School

WVLT, along with other Knoxville news outlets, requested the release of police body camera video from an officer-involved shooting at Austin-East High School that left a student, Anthony Thompson, Jr., dead.
Published: Apr. 20, 2021 at 5:11 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A handful of media outlets, including WVLT News, filed a motion in Knox County Criminal Court asking for the release of Knoxville Police Department body camera footage from an officer-involved shooting that left a student dead at Austin-East High School.

As an entity that serves as a government watchdog, WVLT News requested the release of the video in an effort to clarify the events of Monday, April 12.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation identified Anthony Thompson Jr. as the 17-year-old Austin-East Student killed during the officer-involved shooting.

At first, the TBI said a preliminary investigation revealed Thompson shot responding Officer Adam Willson. But then, the TBI revised its report and revealed the bullet that struck Officer Willson was not fired from Thompson’s handgun. That revelation prompted calls for the video to be released.

Four Knoxville Police Department officers were involved in the shooting, days after body cameras were issued to officers for the first time in the department’s history. Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon and Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas quickly came forward requesting the video be released. Three officers involved also requested for the footage to be made public.

“Every day the video is not released undermines public trust...The public has a right to see the video and KPD officers should be held accountable based on their actions, not on rumor,” said Mayor Kincannon.

A petition from the City of Knoxville read, “The facts and circumstances surrounding the subject at issue are a matter of great and serious concern within the City, resulting in many requests for the City to be transparent in responding to public concerns, including multiple requests and demands for the release of the body-worn camera coverage.”

However, Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen said the video would not be immediately released to protect the integrity of an investigation, which she said could potentially result in criminal charges. Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs supported her decision to withhold the video.

“The case cannot be tried in the public or in the press prior to it being tried in the courtroom,” Allen said. There is the possibility, because of these laws, if we release this body cam footage- there’s the possibility that we could violate a law to where we could not use it in the trial if we were to go to trial,” said D.A. Allen.

According to Tennessee Code 38-8-311, the district attorney general may disclose the investigative record to the public.

The Knoxville News Sentinel, East Tennessee Enlightener, Compass, Hard Knox Wire, WUOT Radio, WVLT-TV, WBIR-TV, and WATE-TV are collectively asking for the video to be released.

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