UPDATED: 15-year-old charged, teen victim identified

Knoxville Police Department officers at the scene of an October 25 shooting in the Mechanicsville neighborhood. Photo by J.J. Stambaugh.

A 15-year-old boy was taken into police custody on Tuesday in connection with the death of another teenager in Northwest Knoxville.

The child was booked into the Richard L. Bean Juvenile Detention Center on a juvenile petition charging him with being delinquent by possessing a weapon to go armed. Additional charges are pending, said Knoxville Police Department spokesperson Scott Erland. 

The body of 18-year-old Junior Santiago was found in an overturned car at the intersection of Cansler Avenue and Wallace Street in the Mechanicsville neighborhood just after 9:15 p.m. Monday, Erland said. Santiago had been shot at least one time. 

“Extensive investigation that carried into the early hours of Tuesday morning identified the primary suspect,” Erland said. “Earlier today (Tuesday), the suspect was located by Violent Crimes Unit investigators.”

The 15-year-old suspect’s name wasn’t released because of laws protecting the privacy of juveniles. 

Santiago was a student at Fulton High School, according to a statement issued by Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas.

“As our community continues to seek solutions to the issue of gun violence, I want to offer my deepest sympathies to Junior’s family, friends, and the Fulton High School community,” Thomas said. 

It wasn’t clear if Santiago died from the crash, from a gunshot wound, or both. He was taken to the Regional Forensic Center for an autopsy, but the results won’t be available for several weeks.

Footage from a home security system about a block away from the crash scene that was obtained by Hard Knox Wire didn’t contain any video of the incident. The audio track, however, captured the sounds of at least 15 gunshots being fired in quick succession. The sound of the final gunshot was accompanied by the screeching of tires, a loud thud and the sound of breaking glass.

If Santiago’s death is classified as a homicide, it will be either the 35th or 37th to occur in the Knoxville city limits this year, depending on how the numbers are compiled.

According to KPD’s statistics — which don’t include officer-involved shootings — the number of homicides would be 35. 

Hard Knox Wire, however, includes officer-involved shootings. Under that criteria, Monday’s incident would be Knoxville’s 37th 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, according to KPD’s numbers.  

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 on October 27, 2021.