‘Transparency also means timely:’ Knoxville mayor again pushes for release of body camera video

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The debate over whether to release body camera video from last week’s officer-involved shooting inside Austin-East Magnet High School is heating up.

Seventeen-year-old Anthony Thompson Jr. was killed, and Knoxville Police Department officer Adam Willson was shot during the incident. In response last week, people gathered in numbers, pushing to see the body cam video showing what happened.

Knox County’s district attorney general is standing firm against its release while the investigation continues. Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon, however, is once again asking for the public to be able to see it.

The mayor spoke at a news conference on Monday morning.

“It is my first priority to get the videos released,” Kincannon said. “The sooner we get the video out, the sooner we can begin to process and to heal.”

Kincannon is doubling down on her push to release the body cam video. It’s a stark contrast from the stance D.A. Charme Allen is taking.

At a news briefing last week Allen said, “If someone is ultimately charged with a criminal act, they are allowed the right to due process, where the case cannot be tried in the public or in the press prior to it being tried in the courtroom.”

There continues to be a line drawn in the sand, with a recent petition filed by the City of Knoxville in criminal court.

Kincannon explained the thought process behind it.

“Our district attorney general sought a court order in 2019 to maintain control of evidence in a criminal proceeding. When I spoke to General Allen after the incident, she maintained that this court order prohibited me from releasing the video. I disagree with this interpretation,” Kincannon said.

The city argues the order applies to pending criminal cases, and right now they say, no one has been charged with any crime in the shooting.

“We know little about this unfortunate shooting, but some things we know with a large degree of certainty, and that is there is no pending criminal prosecution,” said WATE 6 On Your Side Legal Analyst, Greg Isaacs. “Basically what the City is doing is saying, ‘hey there is no criminal investigation, this does not apply to us. It’s only defense lawyers, etc. So we want you to release it.’ And their reason is pretty straightforward. It’s the reason why the city spent $5 million on body cams – and that is transparency.”

“Transparency also means timely. Not 6 or 18 months later, but as soon after an incident as possible,” said Kincannon.

D.A. Allen’s office wrote to us in an email: “This Office has been working around-the-clock to quickly but thoroughly examine the evidence being collected in this investigation to make the legal determination we are obligated by the Constitution to make.”

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