Grace Christian Academy holds vigil for local soldier killed

Knoxville's Grace Christian Academy holds vigil for local soldier killed

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Dozens of Grace Christian Academy students and staff members gathered Monday morning in the school gym to hold a prayer vigil for Austin McReynolds's family. Dozens of Grace Christian Academy students and staff members gathered Monday morning in the school gym to hold a prayer vigil for Austin McReynolds's family.
Pfc. Austin McReynolds (source: family photo) Pfc. Austin McReynolds (source: family photo)

By HAYLEY HARMON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Friends and family are still reeling from the loss of a local soldier killed over the weekend in a hit and run in Middle Tennessee.

Clarksville police say Private First Class Austin McReynolds, a Knoxville native who was stationed at Fort Campbell, died early Saturday morning.

Officers say he was walking home from a bar when an SUV hit him and then drove away.

Austin was a 2011 graduate of Knoxville's Grace Christian Academy.

His alma mater came together to try and cope with his death. Dozens of Grace Christian Academy students and staff members gathered Monday morning in the school gym to hold a prayer vigil for Austin's family.

His mother is a teacher at GCA, while his younger brother and sister are both students.

"There's no greater way to support those around us that are hurting than to pray for them," said GCA Campus Pastor Matt Mercer. "We're in pain. We're a family."

"This is a great loss for their family and for all of us," said Jackie Smith, a GCA parent whose son was friends with Austin.

Austin attended GCA his entire school career.

Teachers say the school is taking his loss extremely hard because everyone knew him.

"At Grace, when it hurts one person, it hurts us all," said GCA senior Heath Hatmaker, best friends with Austin's younger brother.

He was a running back on the football team all four years of high school.

Former teammates and coaches say there was never a better guy.

"He was a very big leader and he led by example," said Hatmaker. "We realize who Austin was and what he stood for and that just brings us comfort."

Heavy on their hearts Monday is the Austin they remember.

"He was just about being real in his faith and who he was," said Mercer.

They describe him as genuine, kind and a friend to everyone.

His personality brought everyone together.

"The kind of young man that you'd want your own son. You'd want your own kids to be like him," said Mercer.

"He had such a good heart. He was always willing to give to others and invest in other people's lives," said Dr. Tony Pointer, a Bible teacher at GCA.

So as Austin loved everyone, GCA students and staff are now doing the same in his honor, wrapping their arms around Austin's loved ones.

Just a few hours after Austin's body was discovered, police located an SUV with recent front end damage.

They tracked down the owner, who turned out to be another soldier.

US Army Captain David Elliott admitted to police he had been drinking at the same bar as Austin and had driven home from there.

He told police he thought he hit a deer.

Elliott was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide and second offense DUI.

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