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US officer legally justified to fatally shoot Tennessee high school student: Prosecutors

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Felicia Outsey, right, led a group in prayer in front of Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville, Tennessee, on Tuesday. (Photo by AP)

Prosecutors say a police officer who fatally shot an African-American high school student in Tennessee last Monday will not face charges.

Knox County District Attorney Charme Allen said Officer Jonathon Clabough was justified and acting in self-defense when he shot and killed 17-year-old Anthony Thompson Jr. at Austin-Magnet High School on April 12.

The comment came days after the district attorney released body camera and surveillance footage showing Clabough firing two shots in the school’s bathroom, killing Thompson and injuring another officer.

The body-camera footage shows Clabough and three other officers entering the high school to respond to a call of domestic abuse. They located Thompson inside the bathroom and ordered him to show his hands. Thompson can be heard repeatedly saying “my bad, my bad” as the officers try to handcuff him. One officer grabs Thompson's left hand, while his right hand remains in the front pocket of his hoodie, the video shows.

Clabough later said in a statement that he could see the barrel of a gun pointing at him from inside Thompson’s pocket. A single shot from the gun reportedly hit a trash can, causing Clabough to immediately draw his firearm and shooting Thompson in the upper chest.

After the first shot, Thompson can be heard repeatedly saying, “Wait, wait, wait.” But that did not stop the officer from firing his firearm.

Knoxville County's top prosecutor has decided the four officers’ actions were legally justified in the moment Clabough shot and killed the teenager.

The Knoxville Police Department announced that it would conduct an internal investigation into the fatal shooting.

“While that review is under way, the involved officers will remain on paid administrative leave for an undetermined amount of time,” KPD Spokesperson Scott Erland said.

Activists, however, said an internal review is not enough.

City Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie said Friday that police reforms might be needed not just with law enforcement, but also with the school.

The vice mayor said she understood the anger that many feel

“I’m still processing through what I witnessed on that tape because it was very hard to watch what transpired,” McKenzie said.

“What I can tell you is that I think there were multiple opportunities for prevention through the course of the entire tape that we saw, from start to finish. I understand, once again, why people are so angry. I think that there were ways that it may have been handled a little better as it relates to prevention,” she added.

The release of the police body-camera footage sparked protests in the city. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets Knoxville County, demanding justice for Thompson and police reform.

“This has been going on for too long, and we are here to say, ‘Enough is enough,’” Rev. Calvin Skinner told a crowd in downtown Knoxville.

The shooting death of Thompson came as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty in high-profile death of African-American George Floyd last May.

Chauvin, who was caught on camera kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes during his arrest, will be sentenced on June 16.



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