KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — One student was killed and a police officer was injured when gunfire erupted Monday at an eastern Tennessee high school.
The shootings occurred at about 3:15 p.m. after police responded to a call of an armed male student holed up in a bathroom at Austin-East Magnet High School. When officers entered the bathroom, the student fired at them, striking one officer. He was hit and killed by return fire from police, authorities said.
Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas said the officer who was shot was in serious condition and underwent surgery Monday night.
“It was just very chilling,” Thomas said. “First of all, to hear we have an officer down, and secondly that it was at a school.
“It’s a sad day, for Knoxville, in our community and our police department.”
Police and emergency workers flooded the neighborhood around 3 p.m. and blocked off access to the school and parts of the neighborhood.
Knox County School Board member Evetty Satterfield was the first public official to confirm a student had been killed. Satterfield walked across the road to a crowd of reporters, protesters and onlookers after the incident.
“We had an officer who was shot. He’s in the hospital recovering,” she said. “We have a student that is deceased.”
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released more information at a Monday night press conference, including that the student was pronounced dead at the scene.
“We’ve spent a lot of time when I was here, spent a lot of time working at Austin-East and you know, I’ve got some great memories of interactions with the students there and the staff there, so it’s difficult,” TBI Director David Rausch said. “My prayer is that the community will come together, you know, don’t let this be divisive. Come together. Let’s continue to work.”
State Rep. Sam McKenzie, who represents the district and went to the school, said in a statement, “I am at a loss to describe my sadness as yet another horrific act of gun violence has happened in my community,” urging the community to “reclaim the sanctity of our beloved neighborhood.”
Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed off on legislation last week that would make Tennessee the latest state to soon allow most adults 21 and older to carry handguns – openly or concealed – without first clearing a background check and training. Lee backed the legislation over objections from law enforcement groups, who argued that the state’s existing permit system provided an important safeguard for knowing who should or shouldn’t be carrying a gun.
The law, which does not apply to long guns, will take effect July 1.
The shooting comes amid a flurry of other high-profile incidents of gun violence, including mass shootings in Boulder, Colorado, the Atlanta area and Orange, California.
In recent months, the shooting deaths of four Knoxville teens have become the rallying cry for community members pushing for an end to gun violence.
Justin Taylor, a 15-year-old Austin-East student, died Jan. 27 after police say a 17-year-old boy accidentally shot him while they both were inside a car. Investigators quickly arrested the 17-year-old on a charge of criminally negligent homicide.
Another teenager, 16-year-old Stanley Freeman Jr., was fatally shot on Tarleton Avenue while driving home from school on Feb. 12. Two boys, 14 and 16, have been charged with fatally shooting him.
Janaria Muhammad, a 15-year-old freshman at Austin-East, was found shot outside the home where she lived on Feb. 16.
Jamarion “Lil Dada” Gillette, 15, died after being shot March 9. A woman found him wounded on Cherokee Trail in South Knoxville, near the University of Tennessee Medical Center, and took the teen to that hospital. He died there early on March 10.