‘All he wanted to do was to live and achieve’: Candlelight vigil held for slain teen John John Mathis

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Several dozen people gathered in the Lonsdale community on Monday to pay their respects to the family of John John Mathis. The group included family, friends, and people who live in the neighborhood.

Police are still looking for the suspect in the weekend shooting that claimed the life of the 17-year-old Austin-East Magnet High School student.

Mathis would have been a senior at Austin-East this year and Monday would have been his first day of school, but instead, his classmates are mourning his loss. A day that was supposed to be filled with the joy of a new school year is now filled with so much pain.

“Last night I thought about this,” said family friend Shirley Harris, “Everybody is getting ready for school in the morning, but he won’t be getting ready. He’s laying in the morgue.”

Those who knew John John Mathis said he was excited to finish his last year of high school and continue on to college.

“John John was loving,” said Harris. “He didn’t bother nobody. He wasn’t perfect. All he wanted to do was to live and achieve.”

Now the Austin East community is having to say goodbye to another one of their own.

“The whole community is broke,” Harris cried. “The school is broke.”

Family and friends said he loved to make people laugh, but those laughs have now turned to tears Harris explained,

“There’s nothing to see but pain. That’s all you can see. Nothing but pain in our heart, pain in our minds. When we go to sleep tonight it’s still pain.”

The same cries for change are still ringing out in the community.

“You’re killing innocent kids because you’re jealous of what they’re trying to achieve, and God is not pleased,” Harris stated. “Put them down. Put down the guns!”

Community members said they’re broken by the loss of yet another Austin-East student and they just want to feel joy once again. The shooting happened right where they held the vigil in the area of Minnesota Avenue and Pascal Drive at around 1 a.m. on Sunday.

Investigators are asking anyone with information on the shooting to contact Crime Stoppers by phone at 1-800-222-8477, online at www.easttnvalleycrimestoppers.org or via the mobile app, P3 Tips. Tipsters can remain completely anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.

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