School shooting in Knoxville, Tennessee, 'multiple gunshot victims' reported

Multiple agencies are responding to a shooting at a high school in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Multiple agencies are responding to a shooting at a high school in Knoxville, Tennessee. Photo credit: Knoxville Police Department

A person has died and a police officer injured in a shooting at a high school in the east Tennessee city of Knoxville, local police have confirmed. 

In a tweet on Monday afternoon (local time), the Knoxville Police Department said a number of agencies were responding to a shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School, a college plagued by gun violence in recent months.

Initial reports claimed there were "multiple gunshot victims", including a police officer. In a later update, the department confirmed the officer struck in the shooting suffered non-life-threatening injuries and is "awake and conscious" in hospital.

In a press release issued shortly before 8:30pm (local time), it was revealed the gunman was a student at Austin-East Magnet High School.

In the update, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) - the agency leading the inquiry into the incident - confirmed the armed student was fatally shot after firing at police.

"Officers located the individual inside a school restroom. They ordered him out, but he refused to comply. As officers entered the restroom, he reportedly fired shots, striking an officer. One officer returned fire. The subject was pronounced dead," the TBI said.

Earlier on Monday afternoon (local time), the Knoxville Police Department issued a statement confirming one man was deceased at the scene and another had been detained for further questioning. 

"At around 3:15pm on Monday, April 12, 2021 [local time], multiple law enforcement agencies responded to an officer-involved shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School," the department said.

"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 that 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.

"One male was pronounced deceased at the scene, while another was detained for further investigation. There are no other known gunshot victims."

Earlier on Monday, police confirmed the building had been cleared and there was no longer an active threat. The school will be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday (local time).

One person has been detained for further investigation. Video circulated on social media appears to show a man being escorted away from the school in handcuffs.

'A very difficult and tragic situation'

At around 3:15pm on Monday (local time), law enforcement agencies swarmed the east Knoxville neighbourhood following a report of an armed man inside Austin-East Magnet High School. 

The school was secured and placed in lockdown, with a reunification site established at the baseball field for parents to pick up their children. 

In a tweet, Knox County Schools superintendent Bob Thomas confirmed the school building was secured and students who were not involved in the shooting had been released to their families.

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Nashville Field Division and the TBI later responded to the shooting. In their statement, the Knoxville Police Department confirmed the TBI will lead the investigation, in accordance with standard protocol for officer-involved shootings.

During a scheduled briefing on Monday afternoon, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee called the shooting a "very difficult and tragic situation".

"We don't have a lot of details. It's a current situation right now and law enforcement will update us appropriately," Lee told reporters.

"I wanted to ask for you all watching to pray for that situation and for the families and the victims that might be affected."

The east Knoxville shooting is the latest incident in a community rocked by gun violence. Four local teens who currently or previously attended Austin-East Magnet High School have been killed in recent months, sparking urgent calls and rallying cries for action.

On January 27, 15-year-old Austin-East student Justin Taylor was fatally shot after his 17-year-old companion accidentally discharged his gun, police said. 

On February 12, Stanley Freeman Jr, 16, was shot and killed by two teenagers, aged 14 and 16, while driving home from school. Just four days later, 15-year-old Austin-East student Janaria Muhammad was found dead outside her home after suffering a gunshot wound. 

Early last month, 15-year-old Jamarion Gillette was also shot in South Knoxville. He later died in hospital. 

While waiting for her granddaughter to be released from the school following the shooting, a woman identified as Sharon told WBIR Channel 10 reporter Grace King that "something's got to stop".

"We've got to come together as a community. It has to stop," she said.

"We're losing our kids at an early age and it's not fair to us, or these parents, to be burying these babies."

At around 5:45pm (local time), WBIR Channel 10 reported the Knoxville Police Department was responding to a drive-by shooting within 1.6km of Austin-East Magnet High School. It's unclear if the incident was connected to the school shooting.

Shortly after the shooting in Knoxville, reports surfaced of an armed man on the perimeter of Sylmar High School in Los Angeles, California.

According to the Los Angeles School Police Department, the school was placed in lockdown after a man with a rifle was spotted at a nearby apartment complex. 

In an update, the department confirmed staff and students were safely evacuated off campus and the suspect had been taken into custody. No injuries have been reported.