Victim, police named in deadly drug raid

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The house on Sevier Avenue where a man was shot and killed by police during a drug raid October 12, 2021. Photo by Megan Sadler.

Authorities have identified a Knoxville man who was shot and killed during a Tuesday morning drug raid as well as four officers who were involved in the incident.

Bryan Calvin Lee, 43, was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting at a house at 2962 Sevier Avenue in South Knoxville, a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) spokesperson said Wednesday.

The four Knoxville Police Department officers who played roles in the shooting were Lieutenant Shane Watson, Sergeant Chris Hutton, Officer James Hunley and Officer Carl Kennedy, according to KPD spokesperson Scott Erland. 

“Per standard protocol, the four involved officers have been placed on administrative leave pending the TBI investigation,” Erland said.  

 “Watson has been with KPD since 2002, Hutton has been with the department since 2011, Hunley has been with KPD since 2007, and Kennedy has been with the department since 2009. All four are currently assigned to patrol in the West District,” continued Erland. 

Authorities didn’t disclose how many of the officers fired shots during the encounter, or whether Lee fired any shots at the officers. 

The shooting took place while agents from the TBI and Fifth Judicial District Drug Task Force were executing a search warrant at the house related to an ongoing drug trafficking probe, according to TBI spokesperson Leslie Earhart. 

Several officers from KPD’s Special Operations Squad (popularly known as the agency’s SWAT team) were on the scene in a support role.

“Preliminarily information indicates that upon arriving at the home, KPD’s Special Operations Squad encountered a man armed with a gun,” Earhart explained. “For reasons still under investigation, the situation escalated and resulted in officers firing shots, striking the man. He was pronounced dead at the scene. No officers were injured during the incident.”

Further details about the incident weren’t available Wednesday.

The TBI was investigating the shooting itself — which is standard procedure — as well as continuing the drug probe.

When the fact-gathering phase of the investigation is completed, the TBI will turn the results over to District Attorney General Charme Allen to determine if criminal charges are warranted.

Prior to Tuesday, the last officer-involved shooting in Knoxville was the April 12 death of Anthony Thompson Jr. at Austin-East Magnet High School.

Thompson was killed during an armed confrontation with four KPD officers in a restroom at Austin-East that was triggered by an earlier domestic dispute involving Thompson and another student. The officers involved in the shooting were cleared of wrongdoing by the TBI and Allen, but Thompson’s death nevertheless sparked weeks of angry protests by activists who wished to see the cops punished.

Depending on how slayings are counted, Tuesday’s shooting marked either the 34th or 36th homicide in the Knoxville city limits this year.

According to KPD’s statistics — which don’t include officer-involved shootings — the number of homicides is 34. 

Hard Knox Wire, however, includes officer-involved shootings in the tally of homicides as well as all other instances of lethal violence, even when they are determined to be justifiable killings. Under that criteria, Tuesday’s shooting was the City’s 36th homicide of 2021.

Regardless of which count is used, if the violence continues at its current pace, then 2021 will be the city’s deadliest year on record by far.  

The unprecedented rise in the homicide rate began when the number of killings shot up from 22 in 2019 to 37 in 2020 (not counting slayings that were later ruled as justified), which is a 72 percent increase. 

Prior to 2020, the bloodiest year on record was 1998, when 35 people were killed.

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

Published October 14, 2021.