Knoxville bloodshed continues

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Knoxville Police Department officers and other first responders at the site of a homicide near Juanita Cannon Street and Selma Avenue on December 6. Photo submitted by KPD.

This year’s seemingly endless bloodshed on Knoxville’s streets continued Monday when police discovered the bullet-ridden body of a man in an East Knoxville alley.

The victim — who hasn’t been publicly identified yet by authorities — was found about 5:25 a.m. near the intersection of Juanita Cannon Street and Selma Avenue by Knoxville police officers who were investigating a report of an unresponsive man. 

“Officers and emergency medical providers arrived on scene and located the man in an alley off of Juanita Cannon Street, where he was pronounced deceased,” said Knoxville Police Department spokesperson Scott Erland. 

“Violent Crimes Unit investigators and Medical Examiner’s personnel responded to the scene for further investigation and determined that the victim had been shot at least one time. At this time, the investigation is ongoing and remains in the preliminary stages,” Erland said.

After nearly two decades of generally low homicide rates compared to the 1990s, the number of killings in Knoxville shot up dramatically in early 2020 and have only gotten worse since then. 

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.

As of Monday, Knoxville has had between 39 and 41 slayings within its city limits this year, depending on how the numbers are compiled. 

According to KPD’s official statistics — which don’t include officer-involved shootings — the number of homicides would be 39. Hard Knox Wire, however, includes officer-involved shootings and, under that criteria, Knoxville has seen 41 homicides in 2021.

Regardless of which count is used, 2021 is the bloodiest year on record for Knoxville and Knox County, with a combined toll of between 46 and 48 men, women and children slain. There have also been at least seven homicides this year in the unincorporated areas of Knox County under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Office. 

The rise in homicides has also been experienced by many other mid-sized cities across the United States.

Experts across the country have weighed in on the possible causes of the sudden rise in homicides, which reversed nearly two decades of relatively low violent crime rates following the drug-fueled gang wars of the 1990s. Prior to the last two years, for instance, Knoxville’s bloodiest year came in 1998, when 35 people were killed. 

Homicides have been on the rise across the nation since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, and authorities have blamed the spike in violent crime partially on the widespread societal disruption the coronavirus has caused. The pandemic has also been accompanied by a surge in alcohol and drug abuse, which seems to have fueled a rise in both the number of fatal overdoses and the kind of gang warfare that accompanies drug trafficking. 

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

Published on December 7, 2021