The Knoxville, Tennessee, community is reeling after a high school football player was killed shielding three girls from gunfire.
Zaevion Dobson, 15, jumped on top of the girls to protect them as gunmen opened fire in their neighborhood at around 10 p.m. Thursday, local news station WATE reported. The girls were uninjured.
Known as “Zae,” the teen played on the Fulton High School football team with his brother, Zack.
“He came home from school, did his homework, watched film, watched documentaries of it, players. That's what he loved -- football,” Zack told news station WVLT.
His coach, Rob Black, described Zae as a well-liked leader.
Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch told ESPN that investigators believe the shootings were gang-related, but don’t think Zaevion and his friends were specifically targeted.
“Unfortunately, they picked a random group of young men and women who were just hanging out and trying to prepare to celebrate the holiday,” Rausch said.
Rausch explained that the shootings kicked off when someone shot and wounded 46-year-old Lisa Perry, who was inside her apartment. Perry’s 23-year-old son, Brandon Perry, and others then allegedly drove to the neighborhood where Zaevion lived and began firing at random.
Brandon Perry was later found shot after crashing his car into an apartment, and died of his injuries.