A Tennessee community alarmed by gang shootings Thursday night honored a teenager killed acting as a human shield for others.
Zaevion Dobson, a 15-year-old football player at Fulton High School covered three girls with his body during a random shooting believed to involve rival gangs. Possibly because of the teenager's quick action, no one else, other than the shooters and Dobson, was injured, WVLT reported.
Dobson's football coach said he was a team leader, who led by example.
"He's a sophomore only and already successful, already leading a life that's contagious that people follow," Rob Black said, according to WVLT. "So very liked by his peers and his teachers and his teammates."
Dobson died during one of three shootings in Knoxville, Tenn., Thursday night. Three men appeared to be shooting at random as they drove through the streets, Don Jacobs reported for the Knoxville News Sentinel. One of the men driving, Brandon Perry, was also shot and died of his wounds, and police apprehended the other two when they fled the car after crashing it.
"[Dobson] was really one of our success stories, you know – good family, involved in sports, was a mentee in one of organizations in town, but still he falls victim to this," Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said, according to WVLT.
His actions received an outpouring of support on Twitter.
Hearts are broken here at FHS. Please keep our athletes, students and faculty in your prayers.We lost a fine young man.Proud he was a Falcon— Jody Wright (@Fultonhoops) December 18, 2015
Police have a male suspect, and Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch has deployed "additional resources" to help with the ongoing investigation.
"We think there is some connection with gangs,” the police chief said of the three shootings, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Many of America's shootings are connected with gangs, although mass shooters motivated by politics received more media attention this year, The Christian Science Monitor has reported. The 22 mass shootings that have occurred this year puts 2015 slightly above the average number of 21 annual incidents in the past 15 years, according to the FBI definition of four or more people shot and killed.
Although every incident is troubling, gang violence was more common in the 1970s and '80s and has actually declined in recent years, reported Patrik Jonsson for The Christian Science Monitor. All violent crime in America, including gun violence, has been dropping for two decades since its peak in the mid-nineties.
Many Americans may not recognized the decline, however, because of heightened societal awareness about gun violence and mass shootings. And Americans continue to debate ways to address gun violence.
"We’ve reached a critical saturation point with these mass shootings, and that’s part of the numbness and confusion we feel,” Ron Astor, a University of Southern California professor of social work who has studied mass violence for more than 30 years, told The Christian Science Monitor. “But it’s not like we’ve accepted [the level of violence]. The problem is, we haven’t figured out what to do with that moral outrage that we all have."