‘Some people are happy’ Daunte Wright was fatally shot by police, lawyer says amid threats to the family

'Some people are happy' Daunte Wright was fatally shot by police, lawyer says amid threats to the family

The New York Times

One high school, five students fatally shot

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The murders came in quick succession. On a cold night in late January, a high school football player was found unconscious and bleeding from a single gunshot wound. Two weeks later, a 16-year-old student was killed by a bullet that the authorities said could have strayed. Four days later, a co-captain of the dance team was shot dead. In early March, a 15-year-old who last attended class in the fall died of gunshot wounds. And last week, 17-year-old Anthony Thompson Jr. was shot dead by a police officer in a brief argument in a cramped bathroom on the same campus and was the fifth Austin-East Magnet High School student to die of gun violence that year. Sign up for The Morning Newsletter from the New York Times. The death of Thompson, who, according to authorities, just before his death had fired a gun and hit a trash can in the bathroom, repeated a number of violent clashes between African American and law enforcement officers. But it has also sparked an all-too-familiar agony in a community that residents said had been ravaged by an epidemic of gun violence that besieged their young people. “These children are losing their lives left and right for no reason,” said Kiara Taylor, 21, whose brother Justin, the soccer player, was killed in a shooting that the authorities called accidentally. “It makes it harder to get out of the house every day when you know that another child has lost their life.” Young people aged 14 were arrested in several shootings. Authorities said the confrontation with Thompson was escalating because he was armed. In shaky videos recorded by the police officers’ body cameras, the police officers reach for their weapons with an opening fire. A classmate who was fixed to the tile floor by another officer sees the oozing blood and yells, “Help him! Please help him! “An autopsy revealed that Thompson was stabbed in the heart and lungs by a single bullet. The shooting, which the prosecution published here this week after continued pressure from the community, took place amid the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer , who was recently convicted of the murder of George Floyd, but here much of the community’s outrage over Thompson’s death stemmed from broader fears that a climate of violence has woven into the lives of its young people in Knoxville, a town of lush hills on the Tennessee River, home to approximately 188,000 people, recorded 37 murders last year, one of the deadliest years in the city’s modern history, and the city council recently approved a $ 1 million proposal to fund gun violence programs. “I think this town is wavering,” said Charm Allen, G Knox County Attorney General. “I think the fact that we had five student deaths means that something is clearly wrong somewhere. This is unacceptable. “At a recent community talent show, girls performed dances they’d learned from TikTok in t-shirts that looked like a classmate. During protests, they sat on the hoods of their friends’ cars, sang “Black Youth Matter” and sang songs by rapper Lil Baby that were blown from the speakers. “You’re angry,” said Jacqueline Muhammad, whose 15-year-old daughter Janaria co-captained the school’s dance team, of her child’s friends and classmates. “You are hurt. You are tired. And I hope and pray that nobody needs to be hurt. “Austin-East, a magnet art school with approximately 640 students, most of whom are black, reflects the pride of the East Knoxville community – but also their struggles. The streets around the school are littered with overgrown lots and abandoned shop windows, which, according to residents, bear witness to neglect and poverty in the neighborhood. The school draws its students primarily from the East Knoxville neighborhoods, and residents describe them as an anchor for the community. Students and parents alike enjoy boasting of the dance and arts programs. But they also complain of outdated textbooks and a lack of advisors. And in a community where crime has increased in recent years, Muhammad said that students were familiar with deadly violence long before the recent fatal shootings. Knox County Schools declined to comment on the shootings, but officials said counseling and other services were available. The anger and sadness of the community increased as the killings continued. Justin Taylor was killed on January 27 after police found him with a gunshot wound in a ministry car. A 17-year-old boy was charged with criminally negligent murder in his death. Then Stanley Freeman Jr., 16, was fatally shot in his car on February 12 while driving home, police said. A 14-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy are charged with first degree murder. Four days later, Janaria Muhammad was found unconscious with a gunshot wound. Jamarion Gillette, who officials said had not gone to school since September, was fatally shot on March 9, while the nation was watching the chauvinist trial. It also came amid a riot in Chicago over the release of body camera footage showing the shooting of Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old who threw a gun behind a fence before being killed by a police officer. It also happened days before the deaths of other young people across the country, including Ma’Khia Bryant, 16, who was carrying a knife and appeared to be attacking another girl when she was killed by a Columbus, Ohio police officer and the fatal attack of a 7-year-old girl who was shot in a car in a car on a thoroughfare at a McDonald’s restaurant in Chicago. Allen, the Knoxville District Attorney, had initially resisted requests from activists, local elected officials, and even the chief of the Knoxville Police Department to post body camera footage of Thompson’s gunshots. But in a two-hour press conference on Wednesday, Allen used emergency calls, text messages, and footage from school security and body cameras to cover both the shooting and the events. She will not bring criminal charges against the officer, she said, citing what she described as his reasonable fear of mortal danger to herself and other officers. She said the police were called for the first time after fighting between Thompson and his girlfriend. The girl’s mother, Regina Perkins, told police that Thompson pushed her daughter and pulled her hair. In an interview with the Knoxville News Sentinel, Perkins said she regretted calling the police. “I’m so sorry and I never wanted anything to happen to him,” she said. “He was a good kid, he had dreams and goals, but he had some problems.” Thompson was captured by school security cameras running around campus talking on his cell phone before going into the bathroom. After the officers arrived at the school, a school officer showed them to the bathroom. Allen slowed the footage from the body camera and pointed to a gun in the pocket of Thompson’s hoodie. She later noticed a hole in the fabric that she said came from his gun being fired. Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said in a statement Wednesday that she was “relieved” that the footage had been shared. “While this information is essential for transparency, it is not easy to see,” she said. But lawyers representing Thompson’s family argued that his death could have been avoided. “When a suspect is a person of color, there is no attempt to de-escalate the situation,” said Ben Crump, a well-known civil rights attorney hired by many families of people killed by police, including the Floyd family in one Statement after being kept by Thompson’s family. “The police shoot first and then keep asking questions because black lives are worth less.” Last week, Thompson’s name was added to a list displayed on posters and sung at demonstrations: a collection of young people killed by gunfire. Dozens recently gathered in a park down the street from Austin-East, and families told stories of the relatives they had lost. Kiara Taylor, Justin Taylor’s older sister, called her brother an “entrepreneur” who regularly got up early to mow lawns for money. “He was very ambitious,” she said. “It is very important to me that this lives on, that people know that about him, that people know that he was a good student. Austin-East isn’t full of bad kids. “The group walked a winding route through East Knoxville, wearing banners and shirts to commemorate those killed. They passed houses with signs declaring the school’s pride. “Pray that AE will be strong,” said one. Sheenan Lundy, 36, broke into school songs and was joined by a chorus of voices. “I’m so glad I’m going to AE,” they sang. “I’m so happy to be joining AE.” “Austin-East gives hope,” Lundy said later. “It’s family oriented. It is at home. It is love. It is surrender. It’s pride. I could go on and on It’s a special place. It’s a safe haven – no matter what they say about it. “For her, a graduate of the 2003 class, that was it. Lundy could see it would be the same for her daughter Shaniya Cherry, a 15-year-old ninth grader on the dance routine who was recently voted Miss Freshman. “I still love my school,” the teenager said, adding that she and her friends have relied on each other for the past few months as they coped with their pain. Her younger sister, Aniya Mitchell, 9, spoke up. She said she heard her older sister ask her mother about the police officers at the school. Aniya, who shared a father with Janaria Muhammad, started crying when she described her fear of meeting someone with a gun. “You don’t want this to happen to you,” she said. Shaniya reached down and wiped the tears from her sister’s face. This article originally appeared in the New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company