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More than 100 flood Knoxville streets demanding the release of body cam footage in Austin-East shooting

Several activists spoke and voiced the demands of the community including releasing body camera footage from the shooting, surveillance video from the school and the 9-1-1 tapes.
Published: Apr. 16, 2021 at 10:18 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 16, 2021 at 11:31 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - More than 100 members of the Knoxville community assembled outside the Knoxville Police Department headquarters Friday evening demanding the Knox Co. District Attorney and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation release KPD body camera footage of the officer-involved shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School that left one student dead and an officer hospitalized from a gunshot wound.

The group gathered for a peaceful protest outside KPD headquarters around 5 p.m. Friday where several activists spoke and voiced the demands of the community including releasing body camera footage from the shooting, surveillance video from the school and the 9-1-1 tapes.

Following the protest, the group peacefully assembled and marched through the streets of downtown Knoxville demanding transparency and questions answered from officials.

“This isn’t about the trial, this about the community being able to see what our officers are doing inside the schools that we pay for with our taxes. I think it’s the least they can do is at least offer some transparency,” Kenneth Wild said.

Knoxville District Attorney General Charme Allen held a press conference Thursday morning where she said she hears the demands to release the body cam footage, but that is not something she is willing to do at this time for many reasons including the sake of the integrity of this ongoing investigation.

“The case cannot be tried in the public or in the press prior to it being tried in the courtroom,” Allen said. “There is the possibility, because of these laws, if we release this body cam footage- there’s the possibility that we could violate a law to where we could not use it in the trial if we were to go to trial.”

The press conference came as community members held a protest outside of Wednesday’s KCS Board of Education meeting, demanding body camera footage be released of the shooting after details of the investigation concluded officer Willson was not shot by Thompson Jr., as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation initially reported.

DA Allen said this wrong information that was released is an example of why officials should not release details too quickly during an ongoing investigation.

“That is a perfect example of why, when we’re investigating a case, should not answer questions, should not talk to you, should not tell you things that we think are true because things change in an investigation. New information comes in and things change. We taint further information by releasing information,” Allen said.

Allen said due to the fact that this case is dealing with a minor she wants to make sure the child’s family is able to review the tapes first and ask any questions they may have before the footage reaches the public eye.

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