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Classes canceled at Knoxville school for two days after armed student is killed in encounter with police

No classes were held for the last two days at a school in Knoxville after a student was killed and a police officer was shot and injured during an encounter at the high school.

A decision about the rest of the week’s classes at Austin-East Magnet High School is pending, Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas said at a press conference.

“We are all devastated by this tragedy,” he said, adding that counselors will be made available.

The superintendent was speaking after a traumatic day in which officers responded to a call of a potentially armed person Monday afternoon and found the person, later identified as 17-year-old student Anthony J. Thompson Jr., in the school bathroom, according to a preliminary report from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).

Officers ordered him out but he refused. Following a struggle, Thompson’s gun fired, prompting one officer to return fire, the TBI said. Thompson was pronounced dead at the scene.

The officer who was shot and injured, Adam Wilson, was not struck by gunfire from Thompson, according to the TBI’s preliminary findings. No further explanation on who fired the shot has been given.

The shooting is just the latest gun violence incident to plague the school, which has already lost four students in the last few months, the Knoxville Fire Department told CNN in an email Monday.

‘Our worst fear’

The investigation is continuing and the findings will be shared with the local District Attorney, TBI Director David Rausch said Monday.

Rausch said this is not a “school shooting” but is an “officer-involved shooting at a school,” noting that the distinction is important.

“It’s our worst fear, an active shooter in a school,” Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas said during the press conference.

“We all need to work together to stop the violence,” Mayor Indya Kincannon said, according to CNN affiliate WVLT. “It’s a big challenge and we’re going to need the whole city to work together.”

Austin-East Magnet High School is a Title 1 school, which is a federal program providing financial assistance to “schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families,” according to the US education department.

The school’s website says it has “a performing arts focus that offers resources including visual arts, CTE and rigorous academic courses.”

Responders trained for incidents like this

The injured officer is “conscious” and “going to be OK,” Kincannon said, adding that she spoke with him and he was in good spirits.

“I thanked him for putting his life on the line to protect the students and staff at the school, and he said he’d rather he be hurt than anybody else,” the mayor said.

The Knoxville Fire Department has trained for these kinds of incidents.

Fire Department Captain Corcoran told CNN in an email that the department co-trained with the KPD’s SWAT team for incidents like this, “entering into a potential hot zone where it’s unknown if there is still an active shooter on the loose”.

“Unfortunately that training was used today when responding to Austin East high school,” Corcoran said. “As far as our response to the incident, it was a successful one.”

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