KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A lawsuit against the four Knoxville Police Department officers in the 2021 shooting death of 17-year-old Anthony Thompson Jr. has been dismissed while claims made against the City of Knoxville can continue.
U.S. District Judge Charles Atchley Jr. on Thursday dismissed the claims against Lt. Stanley Cash, Officer Brian Baldwin, Officer Jonathan Clabough, and Officer Adam Willson. The lawsuit was filed by his mother, Chanada Robinson and her son’s best friend, Gralyn Strong, who was inside the bathroom at Austin-East Magnet High School when Thompson Jr. was fatally shot.
It alleged the officers violated Thompson’s civil rights as well as the rights of Robinson for the deprivation of her civil right to the custody and society of her son.
Among the claims dismissed was the assertion that the officers did not have legal standing to arrest Thompson. Atchley wrote they had probable cause to do so based on investigations into the claim that Thompson Jr. had assaulted his girlfriend and school security footage showing an altercation between the two.
Atchley dismissed the claim that officers used excessive force by grabbing Thompson’s arms after he did not remove his hands from his hoodie pocket, where he held a handgun.
“Anthony’s refusal to comply with lawful commands justified Defendants in using some force to control the situation—namely, gaining control of Anthony’s arms by grabbing them,” he wrote.
Thompson’s gun went off during the struggle. Clabough fired his service weapon twice, seconds later. One shot hit Thompson and Officer Willson was injured by the other.
An excessive force claim targeted Clabough’s use of deadly force was also dismissed.
“After a gun fired from inside Anthony’s sweatshirt pocket, Clabough certainly had probable cause to believe that Anthony posed a threat of serious harm to himself and his fellow officers when he discharged his weapon four seconds later,” Atchley wrote.
The judge dismissed the claim that Anthony was denied his right to medical attention after the shooting, noting that the officers quickly called for medical assistance and that officers are not obligated to personally provide medical treatment.
“It is not lost on the Court that Plaintiffs have suffered an unspeakable tragedy. At just seventeen-years-old, Anthony was taken from this world far too soon. Plaintiff Robinson lost her son, and Plaintiff Strong lost his best friend. But the Court is bound by the law in even the most tragic circumstances, and the law requires dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims against the individual defendants.”U.S. District Judge Charles Atchley Jr.
Knoxville Chief of Police Paul Noel released the following statement:
“A tremendous weight was lifted off of our department with the court ruling that was issued on Thursday. That order ruled in no uncertain terms that the actions of Officer Clabough, Officer Baldwin, Officer Willson and Lt. Cash did not amount to a violation of any constitutional rights. The ruling also determined that our officers’ decision to affect the arrest was appropriate given the information that they knew, the use of force was objectively reasonable, and our officers did not act with indifference or deny the medical care that was needed. Anthony Thompson Jr.’s death was an unimaginable tragedy.”
“It was a tragedy for his family, our community, our department and the officers who were involved. This ruling does not alter that fact in the slightest, which U.S. District Court Judge Atchley himself noted in his ruling.”
“The ruling does reflect that, when impartially considering the totality of the circumstances and the speed in which that situation escalated, the actions of our officers were appropriate and reasonable.”