A tale of a gun

The 9mm pistol that Anthony Thompson Jr. had when he was confronted by police on April 12. Source: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

A host of unanswered questions was left in the wake of Anthony Thompson Jr.’s violent death at Austin-East Magnet High School last month, including how the 17-year-old boy got the pistol that he was armed with.

That particular mystery, at least, was solved with Friday’s arrest of a lifelong friend of the deceased teen: Kelvon Foster, a 21-year-old man who allegedly bought a 9mm pistol for the boy at a pawnshop only a week before the fatal shooting.

Foster faces both state and federal charges in connection with the alleged gun deal.

Anthony Thompson Jr.,17, was shot and killed April 12 during a confrontation with four Knoxville Police Department officers in a restroom at Austin-East. The officers were trying to take Thompson into custody for assaulting his girlfriend when a gun he was holding inside his hoodie’s front pocket fired once as he fought the officers, striking a nearby trash can. One of the officers then fired twice, killing Thompson and wounding the school’s SRO.

Although District Attorney General Charme Allen and the TBI cleared the officers of criminal wrongdoing for the shooting, Allen has stressed that TBI agents were still looking at issues surrounding Thompson’s death. It wasn’t immediately clear if Foster’s prosecution will conclude the TBI probe or if more arrests are forthcoming.

Kelvon Foster

Allen said that both state and federal prosecutors obtained arrest warrants for Foster on Friday morning.

Foster was described by authorities as a close friend of Thompson’s older brother and a lifelong acquaintance of the younger boy.

Foster, Thompson and two other males (unidentified in court papers) went to Harvey’s Pistol & Pawn, 5305 Clinton Plaza Drive on April 5, according to Allen and an affidavit filed in federal court by Special Agent Kristin J. Pyle of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

Foster immediately began filling out the legal paperwork needed to buy the pistol while Thomson and the other males went to the display area containing Glock firearms. Thompson then left the pawn shop while Foster bought a Glock Model 45 handgun, they said.

During subsequent interviews with TBI and ATFE agents, Foster allegedly admitted to “having straw purchased” the pistol for Thomson, who’d given him the money to buy the gun before they entered the pawn shop. 

Anthony Thompson Jr.

The federal charge against Foster stems from him lying on the paperwork at the pawn shop by claiming to be buying the gun for himself, records show.

He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Guyton on Friday and was allowed to go free pending trial. Guyton appointed Assistant Federal Defender Benjamin Sharp to represent him. 

The state charge of providing a handgun to a juvenile is a Class A misdemeanor that carries a sentence of up to 11 months and 29 days upon conviction. A court date for his first appearance in General Sessions Court wasn’t available Friday. 

“Because this is a pending case, ethical rules prohibit the District Attorney’s Office from commenting further,” said a DA’s office press release. “Likewise, the TBI file will remain sealed during the pendency of these prosecutions.”

A great many questions related to Thompson’s death remain unresolved and there’s been no indication when they might be answered.

Although they’ve been cleared of criminal wrongdoing, the four officers still face a KPD internal affairs investigation to determine if departmental policies were followed.

Also, Knox County Schools is conducting its own investigation into the incident.

Items found in Anthony Thompson Jr.’s possession after he was shot and killed April 12. Note the spare clip of 9mm ammunition at left. Source: TBI

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

Published on May 17, 2021