The South-Doyle neighbor was sitting on her screened-in porch doing paperwork just after 10 a.m. on the morning of Aug. 25 when the racket started. It was a helicopter, flying low over the subdivisions surrounding the high school. When it didn’t stop, she stepped outside and looked skyward.
“I see this helicopter flying really fast and really low, over the subdivision, over John Sevier Highway, and then over the mountain to the north,” she said. “It went on and on, and after about 45 minutes, it heads back toward the airport. But then in less than two minutes, it came back, flying really low over my house toward the high school.”
At this point, it was obvious that some kind of manhunt was going on, so she went inside and fetched her handgun (she asked that her name be withheld).
“I put it right on the table next to me. Then I put a notice on a neighborhood Facebook page that there’d been a helicopter flying dangerously low over our homes,” she said. It continued for more than an hour and also involved search dogs.
Just before noon, she went outside to talk to a neighbor. While they were speaking, they saw five or six Sheriff’s Office cruisers come down the road. They were flying low, too.
“They were doing 65-70 miles per hour, and nearly hit the mailman,” she said.
Her neighbor got in his truck and left. He reported that Coatney Road was blocked off at John Sevier Highway and a black man was sitting “Indian-style” on the ground, surrounded by uniformed officers. Meanwhile the Facebook page had gotten active and reported that the fugitive was a SDHS student who’d gotten caught smoking pot in the school parking lot, panicked after the Sheriff’s Office was called and took off running with his hands cuffed behind his back. The high school had been put on “soft” lockdown.
The student is 16 – he’ll turn 17 in October – has been in some trouble before and is locked up in the juvenile detention center. Double lockdown, really, since new inmates are put in isolation as a coronavirus precaution.
The South-Doyle neighbor later heard that the student panicked because he didn’t want his mother to know he’d been smoking pot.
Turns out, his mother isn’t mad at him; but she’s very worried.
“He got scared and he ran when they put those handcuffs on him,” she said. “He came out of those handcuffs while he was running and they charged him with escape and theft of officer handcuffs and something else. He’s all scratched up – said they had their foot on his face. They treated him like he killed somebody or something…”
And she’s got a lot to worry about – her family is newly homeless. They’d been living with her mother, who had gotten behind on her rent and was evicted. She says her son will not be released until he has a home to go to, and she’s frantically searching for a place to live.
Another South-Doyle neighbor has been digging for the facts of this case and is disappointed at the lack of coverage the “manhunt” received in local media. She is also disappointed in Knox County Schools’ lack of response to her questions and wonders if there is an element of racial disparity in the way this case has been handled. Would a white student have been slapped into cuffs for smoking a joint? Or would the school have called his parents to come and get him?
It’s difficult to confirm the details of this case because Juvenile Court records are confidential. Knox County Schools declined to provide any information about the case, and referred me to the sheriff. A similar request to the Sheriff’s Public Information Officer, Kimberly Glenn, went unanswered.
Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinion column for KnoxTNToday.com.