A Tennessee police officer who fatally shot a 17-year-old high school student earlier this month will not be charged with a crime, prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Body-camera video showed Anthony Thompson Jr. and four cops wrestling over a gun inside a bathroom at Austin-East High School in Knoxville. The April 12 encounter ended with officer Jonathan Clabough fatally shooting Thompson.
The video showed four officers, Clabough, Stanley Cash, Brian Baldwin and Adam Willson, entering the bathroom and asking Thompson to show his hands.
“My bad, my bad,” Thompson said. He repeated the phrase several times, but his right hand remained in his hoodie pocket while Baldwin pulled his left arm back.
At that time, the cops said they spotted the gun in Thompson’s pocket.
A single shot was fired, hitting a bathroom trash can. Willson later claimed he saw Thompson pull the trigger.
After the shot, Thompson started yelling, “Wait, wait, wait” repeatedly. His last words appeared to be, “What are you doing?”
One officer yelled, “He’s got a gun!” At that point in the video, the weapon can be seen outside of Thompson’s pocket. Clabough then shot Thompson once, and he collapsed to the floor.
Two cops, not seeing that the gun fell into a bathroom stall, jumped on Thompson. Clabough then fired a second shot, hitting officer Willson.
(Slow-motion footage from Clabough’s body-camera begins at the around the 1:30:00 mark of this video by local NBC affiliate WBIR, from a press conference by Knox County District Attorney Charme Allen. Warning: GRAPHIC CONTENT)
District Attorney Allen said her office would not charge Clabough, or any other officers, with a crime in the case. She concluded that Clabough acted in self-defense and in defense of the other officers.
Clabough said in his report that he believed officer Baldwin had been hit by the shot that actually hit the trash can, according to Allen’s recounting Wednesday. Clabough said he assumed Baldwin was hit because he walked backward after the bullet was fired.
Allen said the officers were called to the school after two fights between Thompson and his girlfriend. The girl’s mother, Regina Perkins, confirmed that she called police.
“I am so sorry, and I never meant for anything to happen to him,” Perkins said days after the shooting. “We are mourning, my daughter is grieving the loss of her first love and we also want answers and justice in this case.”
Prior to Wednesday’s release of the body-camera video, exactly what occurred in the bathroom remained unclear, as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released multiple contradictory statements while reviewing the case.
Allen initially said she would not share the footage, despite requests from many people, including Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon. Those calls intensified amid the TBI’s conflicting reports.
Allen said she chose to release the footage after deciding that she would not prosecute the officers.