Attorney General Charme Allen has again declined to release the body camera footage from Monday’s officer-involved shooting at Austin-East High School that took the life of 17-year-old Anthony J. “Ant” Thompson Jr. Allen held a press conference at the City County Building this morning in which she did not take questions from the press.
She explained that she understands the public’s demand and right to see the footage, but in order to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation, the evidence in the video cannot be released. Yet.
“As a human being, I understand that. As I stand here as Charme Allen, the person, I want to give you that. I want to answer all your questions, I want to show you the video,” Allen said. “However, I don’t stand here as Charme Allen the person. I stand here … as the elected district attorney general whose job is to protect the integrity of this (potential) criminal case. I have to be mindful of a potential criminal prosecution, and that has to trump and come first. I agree that the community has a right to see this. I agree that … the press has a right to see this.”
Allen further explained that the video would not be released until a time it was no longer needed as evidence.
“It has to be done at the appropriate time. Before you are allowed to see it, it has to complete its function as criminal evidence,” she said. “It is currently an active criminal investigation … There are still many interviews being conducted, there’s evidence being collected … To release any part of the evidence in this case before we have collected all the evidence may taint things that are still being done.”
Allen said the ongoing homicide investigation by the TBI will determine if criminal charges are to be made, and that withholding the footage not only protects the integrity of the case, it protects the due process rights of the accused should anyone be charged. If there are charges, the footage would not come to light until trial. If the evidence does not lead to a criminal trial, it would then be released to the public, but not until Thompson’s family is given the option of viewing the video first.
“There are rules abundant as to why I can’t release this footage,” she 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.”
Allen opened her remarks by expressing her “sincere condolences” to Thompson’s family along with well wishes to School Resource Officer Adam Wilson who was wounded in the incident.
Beth Kinnane is community news editor at KnoxTNToday.com.