Wracked with regret, mother of slain teen's girlfriend asks why police fatally shot him
Anthony J. Thompson Jr. shouldn't have died, shot to death by police Monday in a bathroom at his high school, says Regina Perkins, the mother of Thompson's girlfriend.
Perkins told Knox News she is heartbroken and sick about Thompson's death, grieving for him and his family, and questioning how Knoxville police handled their approach to the 17-year-old junior at Austin-East Magnet High School on the day he was killed.
The fatal confrontation between Thompson and four police officers was set in motion nine months before when Thompson started dating Perkins' daughter, Alexus Page, an Austin-East junior.
The two had a tumultuous relationship, and the intensity of their fights had Perkins worried.
"They had fun together, there were good times," Perkins said. "My daughter honestly wanted to help him deal with everything he was going through, but I knew that things were becoming unhealthy so I did what I could as a parent to shield her from it."
Page, like many teenagers in a relationship their parents don't approve of, wasn't on board with limits. "It is hard. She's 17," Perkins said. "There's only so much I can do, and I know she didn't want me to take some of the actions that I did."
Perkins said that for months before Monday, the young couple’s on-and-off-again relationship had taken a toxic turn, but she was trying to balance protecting and respecting her daughter.
“She loved him, she really did," Perkins said. "He was a good kid, he had dreams and goals, but he had some struggles. They both have gone through a lot of things, and as a parent, I felt it was necessary to protect her after I saw things were heading in the wrong direction the last few months."
Those last few months included physical fights, two suspensions and complaints from Perkins to the school to intervene and separate the two students.
On Monday morning, Page called her mother from an assistant principal's office, upset and wanting to leave early. Her mother allowed her to sign out and come home. When she got to the house, Perkins says her daughter had marks on her face and was missing some hair.
Perkins pressed her daughter more than a dozen times about what had happened before the girl relented and admitted she and Thompson got into a scuffle during an argument.
"Alexus told me that she was grabbed and that her hair was pulled, and that is really what led me to feel that I needed to do more," Perkins said.
Around 1:30 p.m., Perkins said, she tried but failed to reach Thompson's mother, then decided the physical altercation had crossed a line. She called police.
Officer Jonathan Clabough arrived at her home around 2 p.m., and took a report.
Meanwhile, Thompson had been texting Perkins, saying he was upset and frustrated that she did not want the couple to be together. Perkins said she texted a reply to Thompson, telling him that an officer would be coming to Austin-East.
"Anthony was aware that I had called the police and made a report," she said.
Before Clabough left, he asked if there was any reason to believe Thompson might be armed. Perkins said she was careful to emphasize she didn't think so. Her daughter, Perkins said, even explained that Thompson was wearing skinny jeans and had nowhere to conceal a weapon.
“When Officer Clabough left my house at about 2:36 p.m. he said he would be going to Austin East to make an arrest," Perkins said, "but he was given no impression that Anthony had a gun on him, so I don't know what happened after he left my house."
Perkins said her heart sunk when she saw a helicopter hovering above the school not long after, and got the news of a lockdown at Austin-East. She knew something bad had happened.
The questions still haunt Perkins. What happened to Thompson? Why was he shot? Why didn't police call negotiators and wait him out instead of going into the bathroom after him?
Perkins wishes she had never called police that afternoon. A teenager is dead, her daughter is grieving the loss of her first love and in need of therapy, and as a parent, she has to sit with it all.
"I am so sorry, and I never meant for anything to happen to him," Perkins said. "We are mourning, my daughter is grieving the loss of her first love and we also want answers and justice in this case."
Perkins is bothered that her daughter and Thompson were even allowed to interact at the school after they had been suspended.
“I tried my best to make sure every measure was taken. It’s hard to keep these teenagers away from each other," she said.
"This could have been prevented. That child should not be dead, and my condolences sincerely go out to Anthony's family. There are many rumors, but this is the truth about what happened before KPD got there.
"We all want justice for Anthony. He should still be here."