KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – A student opened fire on officers responding to a report of a possible gunman at a Tennessee high school Monday, and police shot back and killed him, authorities said. The shooting wounded an officer and comes as the community reels from off-campus gun violence that has left three other students dead this year.
Police found the student in a bathroom at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville, a city about 180 miles (290 kilometers) east of Nashville, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David B. Rausch said at a news conference. They ordered the student to come out, but he wouldn't comply, and that's when he reportedly opened fire, Rausch said. Police fired back.
The student died at the school, and the officer was taken into surgery after being shot at least once in the upper leg, authorities said. The officer was expected to recover, and no one else was hurt. It wasn't yet clear why the student brought a gun to school or why he fired at officers.
“It’s a sad day for Knoxville, and it’s tough for Austin-East,” Rausch said.
Asked about the overwhelming police response to a call that came in just before afternoon dismissal, Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas said, “We have a student, a school incident. It’s our worst fear, an active shooter in a school.”
The shooting comes as more classrooms are reopening to students after months of remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic, which cut down the number of mass killings in the U.S. The nation has seen series of mass shootings in recent weeks, including eight people killed at three Atlanta-area massage businesses on March 16 and 10 people killed at Colorado supermarket on March 22.
Knox County Schools restarted in-person learning in August, 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.