Knox County Schools to Increase Crime Prevention Efforts After 3 Student Shooting Deaths
Three Austin-East High School students were shot and killed in one month, prompting city, police and school leaders to make changes.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Knox County Schools (KCS) officials say they are committed to stronger crime prevention efforts after three Austin-East High School students were shot and killed in just one month.
On Feb. 12, 16-year-old Stanley Freeman Jr. was fatally shot as he was driving away from the campus at the end of the school day, reports Knox News. Although the shooting did not occur on campus, shots could be heard at the school and it was placed on lockdown.
“Every day we have students who get on the bus or walk to school or drive to school in a car. We want them to be safe and for parents to know that we’re going to do everything we can, in our power, to try to make sure that their school environment is a safe place,” said Superintendent Bob Thomas. “While the shooting didn’t happen on campus, one of our students lost his life and we know that more needs to be done with this.”
Knoxville Police have not identified any suspects or made any arrests but did say they do not think Freeman was the intended target.
Four days later, 15-year-old Janaria Muhammad was shot in the same area. Officers found Muhammad unconscious with at least one gunshot wound. She was taken to a nearby hospital where she was pronounced dead, according to her sister. No arrests have been made.
A third Austin-East student, 15-year-old Justin Taylor, died Jan. 27 after police were called to the Western Heights Baptist Center parking lot where they found the victim suffering from a gunshot wound. Police have since arrested and charged a 17-year-old male with negligent homicide.
City, school and police leaders held a press conference Wednesday condemning gun violence and pledging to create change, according to WATE. Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas said KPD would increase its patrols in East Knoxville and also near Austin-East and Vine Middle Magnet School. KCS had announced the day prior that it was moving Vine to online instruction for the remainder of the school week. Austin-East students were already learning online this week.
Austin-East will also receive three additional school resource officers (SROs), bringing the total to four. The officers’ focus will remain outside the school, said city spokeswoman Kristin Farley.
Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said she plans to propose a $1 million budget amendment for violence prevention at the next city council meeting. She also directed Chief Thomas to meet with other law enforcement agencies regarding the city’s uptick in violence. The meeting will include representatives from Knox County Schools security, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, the University of Tennessee Police Department and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.
If anyone has information about the Feb. shootings, they are asked to contact the Knoxville Police Department’s Violent Crimes Unit at 865-215-7212 or email at [email protected].