A student who opened fire on police officers was shot and killed during an encounter at a Tennessee high school Monday afternoon that left an officer hospitalized with serious injuries, the authorities said.
The Knoxville Police Department said the confrontation happened around 3:15 p.m. at Austin-East Magnet High School, where officers had responded to reports that a male was armed.
When officers approached the student inside a restroom, he began shooting, striking one of the officers in the upper leg, the authorities said. The student was killed by return fire, David B. Rausch, the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, said at a news conference Monday night.
Investigators did not provide further details about the student or his intentions. It was not immediately clear if the wounded officer fired the shot that killed the student.
“It was just very chilling first of all to hear we have an officer down and secondly that it was at a school,” Eve M. Thomas, the Knoxville police chief, said at the news conference.
After saying earlier that one person had been detained, the authorities stated Monday night that the individual might have been a witness.
Indya Kincannon, the Knoxville mayor, told reporters that the officer, with whom she had met Monday, required surgery but was expected to recover.
“I thanked him for putting his life on the line to protect the students and staff at the school,” she said. “He said, he’d rather that he be hurt than anybody else.”
The Police Department urged residents to avoid the area and said that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation would take charge of the case, which it called standard in shootings involving officers.
Bob Thomas, superintendent of Knox County Schools, said on Twitter that the school building had been secured, and that students not involved in the episode were allowed to leave with their families. School officials announced later Monday that classes at the school had been canceled for Tuesday and Wednesday.
At a news conference earlier Monday evening, Thomas said the school’s teachers and staff members had shown incredible strength and courage during the shooting, and that counselors would be available at the school Tuesday.
“I know the Austin-East staff loves their students deeply, and we’re all devastated by this tragedy,” Thomas said.
The Knoxville police set up a family reunification site at a nearby baseball field.
At a news conference at a local high school, Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee addressed the shooting before delivering an announcement on education in the state.
“Pray for that situation, for the families and victims who might be affected in our state,” Lee said.
The shooting came four days after Lee, a Republican, signed a bill allowing most adults to carry a handgun without a permit, The Tennessean newspaper of Nashville reported. The law goes into effect July 1.
At the time of Monday’s shooting, Austin-East High School was still reeling from the fatal shootings of four students since January, The Knoxville News-Sentinel reported.
In late January, a 15-year-old student died after another teenager accidentally shot him in a car, the newspaper reported, citing information from the police. A 17-year-old was arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide in that shooting, the paper reported.
On Feb. 12, a 16-year-old student was shot and killed as he was driving home from school, the paper reported. Two boys, 14 and 16, were arrested and charged in connection with his death, The News-Sentinel said.
Four days later, on Feb. 16, a 15-year-old freshman was found shot outside her home and later was pronounced dead at a hospital, The News-Sentinel reported.
And on March 10, another 15-year-old student died at a hospital one day after he was found with a gunshot wound in south Knoxville.
Austin-East High School collected clear backpacks for students to use after the deaths, according to a tweet from the school.
On Monday, LeKinte Kyle, the uncle of Stanley Freeman Jr., the 16-year-old killed in February, told a local television news station: “We need intervention. I think the kids have been asked to do enough.”
“It’s hard enough” after Stanley’s death, he told WVLT, “but to know that some other family is dealing with this also now — it’s really tough.”
Kincannon saidMonday that the city had work to do to reduce gun violence. She noted that a youth violence prevention week campaign had just begun Sunday in Knoxville.
“My message is that we all need to work together to stop the violence,” she said. “It’s a big challenge. We’re going to need everybody and the whole city to work on this together.”