One killed, shots fired at crash scene in NW Knoxville

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

It wasn’t clear if a man’s violent death in Northwest Knoxville was caused by gunfire, a car crash, or both, police said late Monday.

The man’s body 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. when officers from the Knoxville Police Department responded to a report of an automobile accident with injuries, authorities said.

“Shortly after the initial call, officers were advised that a shooting had occurred in the area prior to the crash,” said KPD spokesperson Scott Erland. 

When KPD officers reached the scene, they found an adult male in an overturned vehicle, Erland said. The man was pronounced dead at the scene. 

“Evidence at the scene suggests that a shooting occurred prior to the crash,” Erland continued. “The victim will be transported to the Regional Forensic Center for autopsy and to determine cause of death.” 

Erland didn’t say if the victim had sustained any gunshot wounds. 

People who live in the surrounding neighborhood watched as KPD officers hung crime scene tape around the intersection. Several people said they didn’t see the shooting but they could hear it. One person also said that, immediately following the crash, a young woman who appeared to be carrying a cooler pounded on their door, screamed “He’s dead!” and then fled from the area on foot before police arrived.

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.

Investigators from KPD’s Violent Crimes Unit, Crime Lab personnel and a forensic pathologist from the Medical Examiner’s Office responded to the scene.

If Monday night’s incident 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 in the tally of homicides as well as other instances of lethal violence, even when they are determined to be justifiable killings. 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.

Publishedon October 26, 2021.