VIDEO: Police report multiple victims in Tennessee high school shooting
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Multiple people including a police officer were shot Monday at a high school in the east Tennessee city of Knoxville, authorities said, adding that the scene had been secured. There was no immediate report on the exact number of people shot or the extent of the victims’ injuries.
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 Knoxville Police Department tweeted that authorities were at the site of the shooting at Austin-East Performing Arts Magnet High School. The online posting said a Knoxville Police Department officer was reported among the victims. Bob Thomas, the superintendent of Knox County Schools, tweeted later Monday that a shooting had occurred but the building had been secured.
“The school building has been secured and students who were not involved in the incident have been released to their families,” Thomas said. He added in a separate tweet that authorities were gathering information and about “this tragic situation” and that additional information would be provided later.
Police urged people to avoid the area, adding a reunification site had been set up on a baseball field behind the school for students to be reunited with family.
Details about the shooting remained sketchy and news outlets showed numerous police and emergency vehicles at the scene.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said it was sending agents to the scene.
Gov. Bill (R) Lee mentioned the shooting at a news conference but said he had little information.
“I just wanted to make reference to that and ask, for those who are watching, online or otherwise, to pray for that situation and for the families and the victims that might be affected by that in our state,” he said.
Last week, the Republican governor signed off on legislation that would make Tennessee the latest state to soon allow most adults 21 and older to carry handguns – openly or concealed -- without first clearing a background check and training. Lee backed the legislation over objections from law enforcement groups, who argued that the state’s existing permit system provided an important safeguard for knowing who should or shouldn’t be carrying a gun.
The law, which does not apply to long guns, will take effect July 1. The new measure also increases certain penalties. For example, theft of a firearm — now a misdemeanor that carries a 30-day sentence — will become a felony with a mandatory six month incarceration. It also makes exceptions for people with certain mental illnesses and criminal convictions.
When asked earlier this year whether recent mass shootings in Georgia, Colorado and others gave him any concern about timing, Lee has previously said the increased penalties mean that
“we in fact will be strengthening laws that would help prevent gun crimes in the future.”