Knoxville high school student killed after firing gun at an officer

Multiple agencies are at the scene of the shooting in Austin-East Magnet High School, police say

A Knoxville high school student was shot and killed Monday afternoon after firing a gun at a police officer who returned fire. 

The officer was taken into surgery after being shot at least once in the upper leg, authorities said. The student -- who has not been identified -- died at the school. 

Police work in the area of Austin-East Magnet High School after a reported shooting Monday, April 12, 2021. 

Police work in the area of Austin-East Magnet High School after a reported shooting Monday, April 12, 2021.  (Saul Young/The News Sentinel via AP)

The Knoxville Police Department said officers responded to reports of a "possibly armed" male suspect around 3:15 p.m. at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville. 

Law enforcement officers respond to a shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville, Tenn., Monday, April 12, 2021.

Law enforcement officers respond to a shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville, Tenn., Monday, April 12, 2021. (Saul Young/The News Sentinel via AP)

Police found the student in a bathroom, Tennessee Bureau of Investigative Director David B. Rausch said at a news conference. Police ordered the student to come out, but he wouldn't comply, and that's when he reportedly opened fire, Raush said. Police fired back. 

"Upon approach of the subject, shots were fired," KPD wrote on Facebook. "A KPD officer was struck at least one time and transported to the UT Medical Center with injuries that are not expected to be life-threatening." 

Police said one male was pronounced deceased at the scene, while another unidentified person was detained for further investigation. There are no other known gunshot victims. 

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It remains unclear why the student brought a gun to school or why he fired at officers. 

Speaking from outside a hospital, Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon told WATE-TV that she spoke with the wounded officer and the he was conscious and in good spirits. 

Multiple agencies were at the scene of the shooting in Austin-East Magnet High School, according to police. 

Special Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) said it was assisting the Knoxville Police Department. 

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said earlier that agents have gone to the school. The bureau, which is the state's top crime-fighting agency, didn't elaborate but said it would provide more information later.

Knoxville police work the scene following a shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville, Tenn., Monday, April 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Knoxville police work the scene following a shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville, Tenn., Monday, April 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Police later said a reunification site had been established at the baseball field behind the high school near Wilson and S. Hembree. 

Bob Thomas, the superintendent of Knox County Schools, tweeted later Monday that a shooting had occurred but the building had been secured and students who were not involved have been released to their families. 

Police urged people to avoid the area. News outlets showed numerous police and emergency vehicles at the scene.

"As details continue to emerge, our thoughts are with Austin East Magnet High School and those school community members who have been affected by the shooting that took place this afternoon," the Tennessee Department of Education tweeted. "The department stands ready to support. 

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said she was "heartbroken" to have heard about Monday's shooting, saying that her office has been briefed and she is "praying for the community, including the officer injured in the line of duty." 

State Rep. Sam McKenzie, who represents the district and went to the school, said in a statement, "I am at a loss to describe my sadness as yet another horrific act of gun violence has happened in my community," urging the community to "reclaim the sanctity of our beloved neighborhood."

"This is the fourth unnecessary shooting involving the Austin East community this year and we must make sure we take every step and make every effort to prevent these tragedies from continuing to occur," McKenzie said.

Police attend a shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S. April 12, 2021. 

Police attend a shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School in Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S. April 12, 2021.  (Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel/USA Today Network via REUTERS)

The school was the subject of media reports in February after three students were shot to death over a three-week span. Those earlier shootings did not take place in the school, and administrators at the time said students felt the arts magnet school was a safe space, according to a story in the Knoxville News Sentinel.

The shooting comes as more classrooms are reopening to students after months of remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic, which cut down the number of mass killings in the U.S. The nation has seen series of mass shootings in recent weeks, including eight people killed at three Atlanta-area massage businesses on March 16 and 10 people killed at Colorado supermarket on March 22.

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Knox County Schools restarted in-person learning in January, but Austin-East Magnet High School went back to virtual instruction briefly in February after the spate of shooting deaths of students. The school will be closed again Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report