Court praises policeman for not shooting knife-wielding 14-year-old

A state appellate court this week offered rare praise for the actions of Knoxville Police Department officer who risked his own life to avoid shooting a 14-year-old girl as she threatened him with a knife, reports the News Sentinel.

KPD Officer Thomas Thurman is being lauded for his handling of a July 2012 incident previously cloaked in secrecy as it involved a juvenile charged in Knox County Juvenile Court. With just a handful of exceptions, the public is barred from reviewing juvenile court records.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals spent several pages of its nine-page opinion in the girl’s case detailing Thurman’s actions as told by Thurman himself in testimony.

(Note: The full opinion is HERE. Basically, Thurmond answered a call about ‘some vague problem involving a foster child’ and, after being admitted into the home, wound up with the girl coming at him with a 10-inch knife.)

“As soon as I seen her, you know, I tried to play the situation down some and just tell her, ‘Hey stop that,’ you know, ‘Put down the knife,’ ” he said.

She didn’t. Thurman began easing his gun out of his holster as she began walking down the steps. But, then, in a split second he said felt much longer, Thurman decided two things — he was going to get stabbed but he was not going to shoot the girl.

“I just knew I was going to get stuck,” he testified. “I just didn’t know how bad it was going to be.”

He swapped his gun for a stun gun and fired just as the girl reached him. The knife flew out of her hand, hitting his leg, and the girl crumpled onto the stairs, crying, “sorry, sorry, sorry.” The knife did not cut Thurman.

…“Before we address the issue on appeal, we note that the record reveals, and the parties, the Criminal Court, and this Court all have acknowledged, that Officer Thurman did a commendable job during the very dangerous incident upon which this case is based,” the justices wrote. “Officer Thurman’s professionalism and ability to think clearly during this life-threatening incident resulted in a resolution that avoided injury or death. The outcome of the incident could have been very different except for Officer Thurman and his actions.”

As for the girl’s appeal of her delinquency by reason of aggravated assault, Assistant Knox County Public Defender Christina Kleiser won. The state conceded the girl was convicted under the wrong statute, so the appellate court dismissed the case.