Apr 12, 2021
Knoxville Press Conference on Shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School Transcript April 12
Knoxville, Tennessee officials held a press conference on April 12, 2021 to address a shooting that took place at Austin-East Magnet High School. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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[inaudible 00:00:01], so there’s not a lot of information that we can release at this time. Agents are still at the scene of the incident, conducting interviews and gathering any evidence that’s relevant to the investigation. So it’s a very fluid situation. You’re going to hear from TBI director, David Rausch, he’s going to give you the latest on the investigation. Also, Knoxville Police Department Chief Eve Thomas is on hand to provide a status update on the officer who was injured. Thank you.
David Rausch: (00:29)
Thank you, Leslie. Thank you all. So at the request of the Sixth District Attorney General Charme Allen, TBI Special Agents are investigating the circumstances leading to an officer-involved shooting that occurred this afternoon in Knoxville. Preliminary information indicates that at approximately 3:15 PM, the Knoxville Police Department received a report of an individual that was possibly armed with a gun at Austin East High School.
David Rausch: (00:57)
Upon arrival, officers located the individual in the school, in a restroom. They ordered him out, but he refused to comply. As officers entered the space, the subject reportedly fired shots striking an officer. One officer returned fire. The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene and has since been identified as a student at Austin East. The officer who was shot was transported to a local hospital for treatment.
David Rausch: (01:29)
At this time, the investigation remains active and ongoing as TBI Agents continue to gather any and all relevant evidence, interviews, and information. Throughout the process, investigative findings will be shared with the District Attorney General’s office for her further review and consideration. That’s all I have for now. I’ll turn it over to Chief Thomas.
Chief Eve Thomas: (02:01)
Our officer was shot at least once in the upper leg. He is in serious condition and is currently in surgery. That’s all I have. We offer our prayers, our thanks to TBI for stepping in to do this investigation. But our prayers for the family and for the suspect who passed. But that’s all I have at this time.
Speaker 4: (02:26)
Chief, could you tell us if the officer was the SRO at this school?
Chief Eve Thomas: (02:30)
I can’t tell you that at this time.
Speaker 4: (02:33)
Are you releasing the name of the officer [crosstalk 00:02:33]?
Chief Eve Thomas: (02:33)
Speaker 4: (02:34)
Can you talk to us a little bit about what it’s like for you to get this call this afternoon, to go to this school that you’ve been to so many times in the last few months. What went through your head?
Chief Eve Thomas: (02:45)
It was just very chilling, first of all, to hear we have an officer down, and secondly, that it was at a school. It’s just, it’s a sad day for the Knoxville and our community and our police department.
Speaker 4: (03:01)
Have you had a chance at all to speak to the officer?
Chief Eve Thomas: (03:02)
I have not. I intend to head that way afterwards so I can hopefully see him when he gets out of surgery.
Speaker 4: (03:07)
Perhaps Mr. Rausch, could you [inaudible 00:03:10] an insight into how this investigation, what happens next?
David Rausch: (03:14)
Sure. What’s currently going on is we still have agents on the scene. They’re going to gather all obvious … the evidence there. We’ll be reviewing … Oh. Somebody’s microphone. We’ll be reviewing the video evidence from the officer’s body-worn cameras. We’ll be reviewing video evidence from the school itself. Knox County security is working closely with us to assure that we have all of that. Those are all pieces of the effort. Then there’ll be interviews that’ll take place, of all potential witnesses, as well as obviously anyone that was involved. That’s pretty much the typical process.
Speaker 4: (04:01)
You said that this happened when there was a suspect in the restroom of the school. The suspect was [inaudible 00:04:08] now, you’ve confirmed that as well. Officers responded to that. Can you describe anything about that encounter? How long it lasted, how long it took for officers to get [crosstalk 00:04:14]?
David Rausch: (04:14)
No. We’re still way too soon in the investigation to get into those type of details.
Speaker 4: (04:21)
Do you know if other students were around?
David Rausch: (04:21)
Again, way too soon. We’re still gathering all of that information. We’ve yet to review video. That will give us even more the detail of what we need to know.
Speaker 5: (04:31)
All right. Just to confirm, so there were three people involved, the suspect, the alleged suspect, and two SROs? Is that correct that [crosstalk 00:04:40] person?
David Rausch: (04:40)
Now we’re not sure what the status of the officers are other than they’re KPD officers. I don’t know what their role … yeah, right.
Speaker 6: (04:47)
Regarding the two officers, two law enforcement officers, one alleged suspect.
David Rausch: (04:48)
Yeah. There may have been more officers on the scene. Again, we’re working through all that. We know that there were additional officers that were responding. At the time of the shooting, we’re not exactly sure yet how many were actually present. We do know that one officer returned fire.
Speaker 5: (05:10)
Sure. Then, so any indication that the student was in the restroom preparing to do anything with the gun that he had brought to school? Or was there … So they could have stopped something or was that just him in the restroom, they caught him there? Any idea-
David Rausch: (05:22)
All that’s still too preliminary to have that detail.
Speaker 5: (05:27)
No arrests were made?
David Rausch: (05:27)
No arrests that I’m familiar with at this time.
Speaker 6: (05:34)
We heard that someone may have been detained for questioning. Is that still the case?
David Rausch: (05:34)
Yeah. If anyone was detained, it’s more than likely witness type of information that I know currently. Obviously any witnesses, we’d want to have them immediately to be able to talk to them. That’s the best I can give you right now.
Speaker 5: (05:52)
The officer who was shot, was he the one who returned fired? Do you know that?
David Rausch: (05:54)
Yeah. That detail, we can’t go into at this point.
Speaker 5: (05:58)
Sir, you were Chief of this police department for many years. You know the community well. What’s it like to be back here to talk about something like this happening in this community?
David Rausch: (06:08)
It’s a sad day. It’s unfortunate. As Chief mentioned, these are the days you don’t ever want to get this phone call. Obviously, because of my connection, it was important for me to be here. I was close by, thank goodness, in the region. I wanted to come by and make sure a couple things, is to let folks know that our investigators are on it. We will conduct our investigation thoroughly. We’ll gather all the facts and we’ll present those facts as we do in any incident that we’re called to handle. Then it’s to visit this community that I love. I’ve spent a lot of time here in this community. It’s a sad day for Knoxville and it’s tough for Austin East.
David Rausch: (06:57)
We’ve spent a lot of time, when I was here. I spent a lot of time working at Austin East. I’ve got some great memories of interactions with the students there and the staff there. It’s difficult. My prayer is that the community will come together. Don’t let this be divisive. Come together. Let’s continue to work. I know this week was identified as youth violence interruption week or something of that nature. This is a tough way to start a week that you’re focusing on trying to keep people safe.
David Rausch: (07:34)
I know there was a great event this weekend by the Change Center and there was people having fun and relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. We need more of that and less of this, my gut tells me that to share. More than anything, just what a sad day, for the family that lost their loved one and for the families of the officers that had to get engaged in this.
Speaker 6: (08:03)
Did officers have body-worn cameras? If so, were they on? Are you aware?
David Rausch: (08:08)
I believe there is body-worn camera footage, as I understand.
Speaker 5: (08:12)
Chief, could you speak really quickly to the response we saw from all kinds of agencies and officers. What’s it like when that call goes out on the radio in the squad room?
Chief Eve Thomas: (08:23)
Yes, I’ve heard from many different agencies, all offering their prayers and their support. That is a great feeling. It’s a great feeling that when we call for and ask for TBI’s help and they come. It’s a great feeling to know that that Director Rausch has come personally. We’ve served many years together and it means a lot to me personally.
Speaker 4: (08:48)
When officers first got the call, though, I mean, there were just so many squad cars there, so many police officers from the Sheriff’s office, from KPD. I mean, it sounds like almost every officer in the city responded. Why?
Chief Eve Thomas: (09:02)
Well, we have a student, a school incident. It’s our worst fear is an active shooter in a school. Those are our kids. Most of us are parents. Those of us who aren’t, we all have a soft spot in our hearts for kids. We don’t want anything to ever happen to the school. That’s the worst thing that we see happening, and then to here involved also-
Chief Eve Thomas: (09:51)
[inaudible 00:09:51] then initially we locked down the school. We wanted to make sure that we had the people involved under control.