The ongoing surge in violent crime that has brought Knoxville’s homicide numbers to record levels claimed yet another life early Wednesday morning.
A man was found shot to death inside a unit at the Huntington Place apartment complex off Sutherland Avenue in West Knoxville, bringing the number of homicides so far this year to 24, authorities said.
The victim’s identity wasn’t made public Wednesday and no suspects had been taken into custody, police officials said.
This year is on track to be the bloodiest since Knoxville began keeping crime statistics. Since Jan. 1, there have been at least 24 slayings in the city plus at least five more homicides in the unincorporated areas of Knox County under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Office.
There were 37 homicides in Knoxville in 2020, more than the previous high of 35 in 1998. At this time last year, there had been only 16 slayings.
KPD officers were dispatched to an apartment at 603 Longview Road about 4:30 a.m. after the E-911 center received a phone call that was disconnected. As the officers drove to the scene, E-911 dispatchers took a second phone call about a gunshot victim at the apartment, according to Knoxville Police Department spokesperson Scott Erland.
When officers reached the scene they found that one of the apartment doors was hanging open, Erland continued.
“An adult male was found inside of the apartment suffering from at least one gunshot wound and was pronounced deceased at the scene,” he said. “Violent Crimes Unit investigators responded to the scene to begin the investigation, which remains in the preliminary stages. There are no suspects in custody at this time and updates will be provided as the investigation progresses.”
The shooting at Huntington Place was the second homicide recorded this week.
KPD officials announced Monday that a motorcyclist who was allegedly run down by a carjacking suspect on June 4 had died while being treated at an area hospital for his injuries. At the time, the death of Berlon Williams, 44, of Knoxville, brought the number of homicides to 23.
The man who allegedly struck Williams, 39-year-old Jimmy Houston Beaver, has been held in the Knox County jail in lieu of a $20,000 appearance bond on charges of carjacking, vehicular assault and aggravated robbery since the wreck.
The charges against Beaver haven’t been upgraded and probably won’t be until prosecutors decide how they wish to proceed with the case.
Beaver is accused of using a knife to scare away the 19-year-old driver of a BMW sedan while it was stopped at the traffic light at Cumberland Avenue and 11th Street around 8:42 p.m. June 4.
“After leaving the scene, the suspect continued to drive recklessly until colliding with a motorcycle rider on Chapman Highway near E. Martin Mill Pike. The 44-year-old motorcycle rider was ejected from the vehicle and transported to the UT Medical Center with life-threatening injuries. Witnesses on scene, including an off-duty KPD officer and a UTMC doctor, rendered medical aid on the victim until medical personnel could arrive,” Erland said.
KPD officers spotted Beaver trying to walk away from the wreck scene and he was positively identified by the carjacking victim, according to police.
Williams was the only homicide victim this year to have been killed by a weapon other than a firearm, records show.
During a recent interview on gun violence, Erland was reluctant to draw any hard conclusions from the current statistics.
“As for how common or uncommon it is to see this many homicides by firearm, it is a little strange that every homicide (except one) so far this year has been by gunshot,” Erland said. “However, as you know, firearms are far and away the most common murder weapon. It is probably a bit of a statistical oddity…. but gun violence has also been on a steady rise nationwide over the past 18 months or so. So, one could infer that would be reflected in homicide data.”
Homicides aren’t the only crime problem that police are dealing with right now, he added.
“Based on the latest, unofficial crime data, reported crime has increased in 2021 compared to this time in 2020,” said Erland. “Property crime has seen about a five-percent increase, while crimes against persons, which would include homicides and assaults of any kind, has seen a little over a 10-percent increase. Crimes against society — DUI, public intoxication, drug/narcotic offenses, etc. — has seen the biggest increase with a roughly 50 percent increase compared to 2020. It is also worth noting that calls for service are up about seven percent compared to 2020. Again, it is important to remember that this is the unofficial, unaudited data, but it does give a general impression of what law enforcement is dealing with on a daily basis.”
Police are asking that anyone with information relevant to the investigation contact East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers by phone at 1-800-222-8477, online at www.easttnvalleycrimestoppers.org or via the free mobile app, P3 Tips. Tipsters will remain anonymous and be eligible to receive a cash reward.
J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published on June 24, 2021