Knoxville police release more information on West High gun incident

According to KPD, the gun went off accidentally while inside a student’s backpack and discharged when the student was going through the backpack.
Published: Apr. 28, 2023 at 12:26 PM EDT|Updated: May. 1, 2023 at 1:24 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A teacher at West High School was grazed by a bullet or bullet fragment after a gun was fired inside a classroom Friday, Knoxville Police Department officials said.

According to KPD, the gun went off accidentally while inside a student’s backpack and discharged when the student was going through the backpack. That student was identified as a 14-year-old male. When the gun went off, there were around 20 students in the classroom, according to KPD.

Additionally, KPD confirmed that there were no serious injuries, and the student is in custody. The gun is also accounted for, per KPD.

Knox County Schools official Carly Harrington told WVLT News the school was placed on lockdown and dismissed at 12:30 p.m. The following are messages sent to parents following the incident:

The City of Knoxville provided a statement from Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, who said she was relieved that no one was hurt.

“Guns have no place in our schools,” Kincannon said. “I am so relieved that no one was seriously injured today at West High School. I welcome all efforts to keep our children and community safe.”

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs also provided a statement.

“This is a school issue, so we have the same information as everyone else at this point,” he said. “I am disappointed that this happened but grateful to those from school security and KPD for their quick response. As always, we will do what we can to support Knox County Schools.”

Superintendent Jon Rysewyk also spoke after the incident, breaking down the process of the response after the gun went off. He said that after the incident, the school went on medium lockdown. A medium lockdown, Rysewyk said, is put in place when there is no immediate threat to students.

Additionally, Rysewyk said the teacher who was grazed refused to leave the school for any medical care, choosing instead to join a teacher meeting to discuss how to proceed. He added that staff and responders in general did everything they were supposed to do to keep students safe.

As far as prevention, Rysewyk said that West High School does not have metal detectors but does do random searches. He added that whenever a situation about student and teacher safety happens, discussions about metal detectors come up, saying that the school system tries to balance safety while also keeping schools a welcoming place to be.

According to Rysewyk, West High was in school on Monday. The teacher also taught classes as normal on Monday, Harrington said.

The student was charged with reckless endangerment, reckless aggravated assault and possession of a weapon on school grounds. At this time, the gun’s origins are still under investigation.