KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A Knoxville man was sentenced by a federal judge on Thursday for providing a handgun to Anthony Thompson Jr., the 17-year-old student fatally shot by police at a Knoxville high school last year while in possession of the weapon.
Kelvon Foster, 21, was sentenced to ten months in prison followed by two years of supervised release for making false statements in purchasing a Glock pistol for Thompson, known informally as straw purchasing.
Thompson was carrying the firearm when officers attempted to apprehend him in a school bathroom on April 12, 2021, as part of an investigation. Officers fatally shot Thompson during a struggle after they saw the firearm on his person.
The gun discharged during the altercation and struck a nearby trash can. As part of a plea agreement, Foster admitted to purchasing the gun on behalf of Thompson.
The initial arrest warrant stated Thompson went to Harvey’s Pistol & Pawn in Knoxville on April 5 and met with Foster. Thompson viewed the handguns for sale and left the pawnshop. Foster then purchased a handgun and met with Thompson later that day. Foster admitted to exchanging the pistol for cash and marijuana.
“In most straw purchasing cases, the harm is understood but often theoretical,” said United States Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III. “In this case, the harm was real and tragic. The laws prohibiting certain persons from purchasing firearms are there for a reason, and my office, and our law enforcement partners, will continue pursuing these cases to the fullest extent of the law.”
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a comprehensive national strategy that creates local partnerships with law enforcement agencies to effectively enforce existing gun laws.
A federal release said the prosecution was the result of a TBI and ATF investigation and thanked the Knox County Sheriff’s Office for their support.
“A person violates federal law the moment they purchase and transfer a firearm to an individual who cannot legally possess them,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Mickey French. “The ATF is committed to working with our local, state, and federal partners to investigate and prosecute the ‘straw purchasers’ in conjunction with the individuals who receive these firearms and use them to commit violent criminal acts.”