Tennessee school shooting: 1 student dead, officer shot and injured, Knoxville police say
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A school shooting has left one student dead and a responding officer shot and injured Monday afternoon, according to the Knoxville Police Department.
"Preliminary information indicates that at approximately 3:15 p.m., the Knoxville Police Department received a report of an individual possibly armed with a gun at Austin-East Magnet High School. Upon arrival, officers located the individual inside a school restroom," police said.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said they are not calling the incident a "school shooting," instead calling it an "officer-involved shooting inside a school."
TBI said one male who was identified as a student was pronounced dead at the scene while another was "detained for further investigation" after a shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School, which is about four miles from downtown Knoxville.
As authorities arrived on scene. the student was ordered out of the campus but did not comply. Police say the suspect had entered a school restroom and opened fire on police, striking one of the officers. Another officer opened fire. Authorities say the student was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police said in a tweet earlier that day that an officer was shot and is among "multiple gunshot victims" that have been reported. The officer’s injuries are not expected to be life-threatening, according to officials.
Authorities said the investigation remained active and were asking residents to avoid the area.
Police have not released any information about a suspect other than stating a male was detained for further investigation.
"Based on the preliminary investigation, Knoxville Police Department officers responded to Austin-East Magnet High School on the report of a male subject who was possibly armed in the school. Upon approach of the subject, shots were fired. A KPD officer was struck at least one time and transported to the UT Medical Center with injuries that are not expected to be life-threatening," police wrote.
Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas said on Twitter that the district will release more information on the shooting as it becomes known.
In the meantime, he said the building has been secured and that students who were not involved have been released to their families.
Knox County Schools restarted in-person learning in January, but Austin-East Magnet High School went back to virtual instruction briefly in February after the spate of shooting deaths of students. The school will be closed again Tuesday and Wednesday.
Speaking outside a hospital, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon told news station WATE-TV that she spoke with the wounded officer and he was conscious and in good spirits.
Kincannon, a former Knox County Schools board president, spoke at a February press conference about the gun violence that took the lives of three Austin-East students less than three weeks apart this year. Two of the victims were 15, and the other was 16.
"I know that school is a safe place," Kincannon said at that time, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. "It’s a place where people are learning. ... The issues with violence are happening in the community, and it’s affecting kids when they’re outside of the school. That’s why we are focusing our efforts to protect the innocent, protect the school, protect the children and students and staff."
The newspaper reported that the school was adding three school resource officers and stepping up patrols around dismissal time.
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 people to "reclaim the sanctity of our beloved neighborhood."
"This is the fourth unnecessary shooting involving the Austin East community this year and we must make sure we take every step and make every effort to prevent these tragedies from continuing to occur," McKenzie's statement said.
Gov. Bill Lee mentioned the shooting at a Monday news conference but said he had little information.
"I just wanted to make reference to that and ask, for those who are watching, online or otherwise, to pray for that situation and for the families and the victims that might be affected by that in our state," he said.
Last week, the Republican governor signed legislation that will make Tennessee the latest state to 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.
When asked earlier this year whether recent mass shootings in Georgia, Colorado and others gave him any concern about timing, Lee said the increased penalties mean that "we in fact will be strengthening laws that would help prevent gun crimes in the future."
This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.