KNOXVILLE (AP) — A prosecutor said Tuesday at start of the murder trial of three young men that at least 34 shots were fired in an attack that killed a Tennessee high school student who was posthumously lauded for courageously shielding two girls from the gunfire.

Christopher Drone Bassett, Kipling Deshawn Colbert and Richard Gregory Williams III all face first-degree murder charges in connection with the Dec. 17, 2015, death of 15-year-old Zaevion Dobson in Knoxville. 

Dobson’s decision to protect his two friends was later hailed by then-President Barack Obama as an act of bravery.

Knox County Assistant District Attorney Phil Morton said Dobson was killed in an attack during a series of connected gang-related shootings in Knoxville that day. Morton said Dobson and his friends had gathered on a back porch after attending an evening high school basketball game when the shooters approached, firing shots from at least four weapons.

“The girls didn’t know what was going on,” Morton told the jury. “The guys thought it might be gunfire at first when these things started popping off. The girls weren’t sure if it was firecrackers or what have you. Zaevion’s instinct kicked in, and as a protector, he shielded these girls from gunfire.”

The prosecutor said Dobson bled to death on the porch, while the girls were unhurt. The prosecutor cited witness accounts as saying armed youths in hoodies walked up, said nothing and began shooting — but there was no indication Dobson was targeted. 

He also described Dobson as a “protector” and added neither he nor his friends had any idea why people were shooting.

A promising football player at Knoxville’s Fulton High School, Dobson posthumously received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2016 ESPYs. The award recognizes individuals embodying the spirt of Ashe, who dedicated his life to human rights advocacy.

Each of the defendants has his own lawyer at trial.

Kit Rodgers, the lawyer for Williams, asked the jury to “look at the actual evidence; don’t get caught up in the story.”

“Sometimes it’s not the things you’re told,” said lawyer T. Scott Jones, representing Bassett. “It’s the things you’re not told.”

 

Man, pregnant woman found dead in mobile home

GRAY (AP) — Authorities say a man and a pregnant woman have been found dead in a mobile home in Tennessee.

Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal tells news outlets that 23-year-old Kyanna Howes Vaughn and 25-year-old Robert Aaron Vaughn were found with gunshot wounds in their bedroom Monday night.

Graybeal says the incident is being investigated as a triple homicide because Kyanna

was six to seven months pregnant.

Graybeal says the couple’s 3-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son were at the home when the bodies were found. Authorities say they have been placed in the custody of the state Department of Children’s Services.

Graybeal says no motive has been determined, and that he feels confident it was not a domestic incident.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is assisting with the sheriff’s probe.

 Cineworld to purchase Regal movie chain

 

NEW YORK (AP) — Cineworld Group PLC is buying Regal Entertainment Group for $3.61 billion in a deal that gives the movie theater operator a larger global footprint.

Cineworld, based in the United Kingdom, is paying $23 cash per Regal share, marking an 11 percent premium over its closing price on Monday. The deal is valued at $5.9 billion including debt.

Regal, based in Knoxville, operates 7,315 screens in 561 theaters in the U.S. under brands including Regal Cinemas and United Artists. Cineworld operates 2,227 screens in nations including the U.K., Ireland, Poland, and Slovakia.

The deal is expected to close during the first quarter of 2018. In morning trading, Regal shares rose 9.4 percent to $22.67. The stock is up 10 percent in the year to date.

 

Knoxville-are homicides highest since 1998, at 36

KNOXVILLE — A Tennessee city and county have together recorded the highest number of killings in nearly two decades.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported Monday that 30 homicides have occurred within Knoxville city limits in 2017, and six killings have occurred in Knox County. According to the nonprofit Murder Accountability Group, with a month left in 2017, these are the highest figures since 1998, which saw a total of 40 homicides investigated. Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch says an uptick in heroin and fentanyl dealing has led to more violence. He says police have made arrests in 14 killings. Police spokesman Darrell DeBusk says three cases have been cleared by exceptional means. All six cases handled by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office have been closed, including two fatal shootings by sheriff’s deputies.

 

Officials offer $5,000 

reward after 18 guns stolen

NASHVILLE — Federal officials say a $5,000 reward is available for information about who stole 18 guns from a Tennessee gun store.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the National Shooting Sports Foundation are offering up to $2,500 each for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the theft from nRange in Mt. Juliet.

An ATF news release says nRange was burglarized on Nov. 26 and approximately 18 guns were reported stolen to the Mt. Juliet Police Department.

 

Animals killed; workers, firefighter hurt in Tennessee fire

CLINTON — Tennessee officials say several animals have died in a fire at a zoo and rescue facility for exotic animals.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials told WATE-TV that witnesses said two primates escaped the fire Monday but were recaptured and brought to safety, while other animals in the exhibit were killed.

Anderson County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Lucas said some zoo workers and a firefighter also suffered minor injuries.

TWRA said the main barn and entrance to Little Ponderosa Zoo in Anderson County were destroyed. The barn housed about 15 primates, reptiles, birds and small cats.

Zoo officials say no animals are at large. Injured animals are being treated.

The fire is believed to be accidental.

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