Filming in East Austin: media join call to release video


A TBI investigation into the death of 17-year-old student Anthony Thompson Jr. is underway.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – WBIR and other area media outlets join City of Knoxville in efforts to release police body camera footage of the fatal April 12 confrontation between officers and a high school student in Austin-East.

“Ensuring our communities have their voices heard has never been more important. As journalists, it is our duty to our community to request that this video be published, ”said Corey Presley, Director of WBIR News.

10News, WATE, WVLT, The Knoxville News Sentinel, Compass Knox, Hard Knox Wire and East Tennessee Enlightener have filed a motion seeking leave to join the city to challenge a permanent Knox County Criminal Court order against the disclosure evidence in a pending lawsuit.

Mayor Indya Kincannon on Monday promised to post a redacted version of Knoxville Police Department body camera footage so the public can see what happened in the high school washroom when 17-year-old Anthony Thompson Jr. was shot by police.

Thompson had a pistol and a shot from his weapon broke out in the fight with four officers.

The public should see the evidence as soon as possible so they can understand what Thompson did and what KPD agents did, the mayor said. KPD School Resources Officer Adam Willson was shot in the leg during the wrestling.

On Friday afternoon, the city asked Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steve Sword to review a two-year court order banning the disclosure of evidence, including videos, in an ongoing case.

No charges have been laid for Thompson’s death – perhaps none will – and the investigation is not yet in court, city legal director Charles Swanson says in the petition .

The court order relates to “ongoing criminal proceedings,” the senior lawyer noted.

The current order, requested in 2019 by Knox County Attorney General Charme Allen, does not appear to apply under the current circumstances, Swanson argues.

WBIR and the other media groups agree.

10News and its peers argue in their submission Tuesday afternoon that the public has a right to know what happened, as body camera recordings show. KPD was just installed and started using them earlier this month after years of debate.

The city still controls the bodycam video, specify the media groups in their request for intervention in the criminal court.

“It is therefore respectfully submitted that any invocation of the standing order as a bar to disclosure by anyone other than an attorney of a party to a pending criminal prosecution in Knox County Criminal Court, Tennessee, is misplaced. and erroneous. Accordingly, we respectfully request this Court to recognize that the Rules must be properly interpreted as applying only to a party to a criminal proceeding currently pending before the Court and, further, that they do not apply. only to the lawyers of this party because they are providing the unredacted video, ”said the motion.

The city may redact the video so that it doesn’t violate anyone’s privacy or state law, reporters say.

“This is a serious issue that should be resolved by the Court interpreting the Rules as applying only to parties and their lawyers in active criminal proceedings pending before the Court.”

First Amendment counsel Rick Hollow prepared the motion.

KPD Police Chief Eve Thomas has approved the release of the video of her officers.

Three of the four men involved in the confrontation and shooting agree it should be made public.

Many community groups and citizens have called for it to be made public.

Allen, a longtime Knox County prosecutor, said last week that she would not and could not disclose any evidence in the case. The TBI is still collecting evidence and, last week, still had not spoken to one of the officers.

TBI agents will collect their findings in the shooting and turn them over to Allen. It will then examine whether the charges are justified.

If they aren’t, Allen vowed last week that everyone would have a chance to understand the facts of the case as uncovered by the BIT. Under these circumstances, Thompson’s family will also be able to view the video, she said.

Releasing anything now could jeopardize the investigation or potential prosecution, Allen says.

This is the first time that bodycam footage has come under such scrutiny and has sparked such heated debate in the community. The Knox County Sheriff’s Office has body cameras, but no incident involving force has sparked such a strong backlash in the city and county.

Sword is presiding over a murder trial this week. So far, no hearing date has been set to hear the city’s motion.

Allen’s office will likely respond to the city in court documents.

Thompson is one of five East Austin students to die in gun violence this year.

He is the only student to die at school.

In January, a 15-year-old was fatally shot when a friend shot a gun in a vehicle.

Stanley Freeman Jr., 16, was shot dead in an ambush as he left Austin-East for the day in February. Two minors have been charged with his murder, and the state is seeking to transfer their case from juvenile court to criminal court.

Janaria Muhammad, 15, was gunned down days after Freeman on a street in East Knoxville.

In March, 15-year-old Jamarion Gillette was found shot dead on the Cherokee Trail in South Knoxville. A woman picked him up and took him to nearby University of Tennessee Medical Center where he died.

No one has been charged in the Janaria or Jamarion murders.

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