A 15-year-old high school football player in Knoxville, Tennessee was killed at a party this week when he jumped on top of some girls to shield them from gunfire that erupted, police say.
Knoxville police called the shooting a “senseless act of violence.”
Zaevion Dobson, called “Zae” by friends, was in attendance at a party on Thursday evening in the city’s Lonsdale neighborhood when several men showed up and opened fire.
Witnesses say that Dobson jumped on top of several girls to shield them from the gunfire. He was struck, and first responders pronounced him dead at the scene.
“He was laying there, and I just pick him up and put him in my arms. He was dead. Unfortunately he wasn’t lucky, but he saved two lives,” the victim’s big brother, Zack Dobson, said.
“These cowardly and senseless acts of violence must stop,” Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said. “We should be preparing to celebrate the Christmas holiday, but now we have two men who are dead.”
Police say that the shooting was likely gang-related and was in retaliation for several earlier shootings but that the choice of the party was a random target of opportunity.
“Unfortunately, they picked a random group of young men and women who were just hanging out and trying to prepare to celebrate the holiday,” the Chief said.
Earlier in the evening, Lisa Perry, 46, was shot by random gunfire that ripped through the walls of her home. The woman was struck several times in the back but suffered non-life threatening injuries.
The woman’s son, Brandon, was so enraged that he grabbed a gun, and he and his friends went out in search of retaliation. The crew came upon the party and chose the gathering to sate their revenge.
The shooters fled the scene after killing Dobson. “Brandon Perry was later found to have been shot after he crashed a car into another apartment. He died from his injuries on Friday morning.” Two others were taken into custody after the crash, though one was released.
Dobson’s saddened football coach, Rob Black of Fulton High School, said that the young man was a “success story” and a fine person. The school is being offered grief counseling after the death of the popular player.
Chief Rausch asked the community to pray for the families as they deal with the loss. He also requested prayer that their faith community would help quell the violence.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.