City hits 22 homicides; mayor, council act

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Police at the scene of June 1 homicide in Lonsdale. Source: KPD

For the 22nd time this year, investigators on Tuesday spent much of their afternoon and evening trying to come to grips with yet another killing in Knoxville.

As has been the case in every homicide committed so far in 2021, the victim — who was killed in the Lonsdale neighborhood of North Knoxville — was apparently cut down by someone wielding a firearm, officials said. 

Only hours after the shooting, City Council passed $200,000 in new funding to combat the ongoing surge in street violence.

Knoxville Police Department officers were dispatched to a home at 1100 Vermont Avenue in Lonsdale about 1:40 p.m. to check out a report that someone had been shot, said KPD spokesperson Scott Erland.

They found a man inside the residence who was “suffering from at least one gunshot wound,” Erland said. He was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency medical personnel.

“Numerous individuals were on scene upon officer arrival, and those individuals are currently being interviewed by Violent Crimes Unit investigators,” Erland said. “At this time, the circumstances of the shooting are unclear and no suspects have been arrested or charged.”

The victim’s name wasn’t made public as of late Tuesday.

If the violence continues at the current rate then Knoxville is well on its way to shattering last year’s record-high number of slayings.

There were 37 homicides in Knoxville in 2020, two more than the previous high of 35 in 1998.

Since Jan. 1 of this year, there have been at least 22 slayings in the city, all of them involving firearms. There have been at least five more homicides in the unincorporated areas of Knox County under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Office, all of them also involving guns.

Only two weeks ago, no less than four people were gunned down in a seven-day period within a few blocks of each other in East Knoxville near Austin-East Magnet High School.

Austin-East itself has played a heartbreaking role in this year’s statistics as five teenagers who were attending the school were killed by gun violence this semester. One of them was killed on school grounds in a confrontation with KPD officers, one was fatally shot as he drove away from the school and a third was killed in front of her house a few blocks away. Another teen was accidentally shot by a friend while they were traveling in a car in North Knoxville, and the fifth was found mortally wounded by the side of a road in South Knoxville.

No school in Knox County had ever experienced anything like that kind of loss. Since February, there have been dozens of candlelight vigils, rallies and protests to remember the lives lost and to protest the decades of social and economic neglect that has led to a 42 percent poverty rate in Knoxville’s Black community. 

If there’s any one thing that all parties agree on, it’s that the violence is the result of the area’s chronic impoverishment and the drug trade that thrives in economic ruin.

Mayor Indya Kincannon discusses the City’s ongoing efforts to combat violence at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Local leaders have vowed to fight the ongoing bloodshed. Led by Mayor Indya Kincannon, the City has earmarked over $1 million of anti-violence program and hired Cities United, a nonprofit organization based in Louisville, Ky. that focuses on leveraging local resources to bring peace to inner city streets.

Last night — only hours after the latest killing — City Council approved $200,000 in new spending to help combat street violence. 

 Council members unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Kincannon to enter into a $150,000 agreement with the Change Center to support youth enrichment services this summer and support Empower Knox and other City initiatives.

The Change Center, often touted as one of the most effective anti-violence programs in the City, had been shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020 but reopened last week.

Council members also unanimously agreed to contribute up to $50,000 to the United Way of Greater Knoxville’s Direct Neighborhood Fund to support violence interruption activities led by local non-profit organizations. 

Council person Seema Singh, who represents the 3rd District, said that she was pleased to see so many local groups coming together to work on the problem. 

J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at jjstambaugh@hardknoxwire.com 

Published on June 2, 2021.