‘Folks need and deserve answers,’ community leaders demand bodycam video released in Austin-East shooting

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)– District Attorney General Charme Allen made an announcement Thursday morning, saying why she wasn’t going to release the body camera video of the officer-involved shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School.

Her main reasons: waiting to complete the investigation to its fullest extent, and allowing the family of Anthony Thompson Jr. to see the video first.

Before and after Allen held the press conference, community leaders spoke out saying they wanted the video released as well.

Mayor Indya Kincannon tweeted that she reached out to Allen, asking for the video to be released; but her request was denied.

After the press conference, 6 On Your Side talked with Knoxville’s Police Advisory and Review Committee Executive Director LaKenya Middlebrook, and associate pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church Calvin Taylor Skinner about Allen not wanting to show the video to the public.

PARC was a big supporter of KPD having bodycams as part of their uniform, especially after the officer-involved shooting of Philly Pheap back in 2019.

The officer-involved shooting at Austin-East on Monday was the first since KPD completed its rollout of body-worn cameras.

So it’s the first time in this kind of situation where there could be multiple angles of what happened.

“This is really a time when that information can be very useful and very critical to understanding how this particular incident happened,” Middlebrook said.

Middlebrook said it would be better if the video was released sooner rather than later.

As time goes on, anything but the truth is spreading, which could make it even harder on the families involved in the situation.

“An individual lost their life, and of course, I encourage everyone to be respectful of that; to honor the families privacy and to be respectful of the situation and to not jump to conclusions. But a big part in what will help in that is being able to see the video,” Middlebrook said.

On the privacy note, she agreed with Allen that the family should be able to see the video first, before it’s released to the public.

“I think it would be devastating, even more traumatic, in what they’re already experiencing in losing a loved one for the first time you see that footage to be, you know, on the news,” Middlebrook said.

However, she did not agree that the video shouldn’t be released until trial, if the case goes to trial; or when the investigation is fully complete.

Allen had said the officers involved hadn’t even given their accounts of what happened.

“The reality is, the incident happened the way it happened. And whether you release the video today, or three weeks from now, that’s not going to change how the incident occurred,” Middlebrook said.

Middlebrook said it’s possible that the city and county policies are outdated and not keeping up with the new technology and new ideas.

“You have, you know, new technology and antiquated policies, then those two things are going to clash. And sometimes it takes us longer than we would like for our policies to catch up to where we need to be,” Middlebrook said.

Skinner wasn’t at all surprised to hear that Allen gave reasons instead of releasing the video.

He said he didn’t watch the press conference, because he didn’t want to hear the ‘excuses.’

“Unfortunately there is a continuous pattern, proven pattern within this nation even within this city that the process has not worked for our community,” Skinner said.

With Allen holding strong to not release the video evidence, Skinner said the community needs to do the same to gain access to it.

“We move forward. We don’t give up. We press mightily and understand that we don’t go back. We move forward. And that’s what we seek to do, especially as it relates to getting answers and transparency,” Skinner said.

Both Skinner and Middlebrook said in order to move forward in the same and right direction, the video needs to be released so they know who to hold accountable.

Skinner said truth and power will always be on the side of the people, and getting the truth out there should ‘behoove’ elected officials, since inaccurate information had already been given.

He said transparency and accountability are just basic principals of a solid foundation for a vibrant community.

“At the end of the day, justice would be brother Anthony Thompson Junior still alive. So, the least that can happen is accountability through transparency and being forthcoming,” Skinner said.

Knoxville Councilwoman Amelia Parker also released a statement on Facebook, asking for the bodycam video to be released.

“Body camera footage is a part of the public record and must be released for public inspection in a timely manner. Transparency builds trust and currently Knoxville is failing in its commitment to the transparency that our investment in body cams was intended to bring our city,” she wrote, ending with the hashtag #releasethetapes.

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