Opening statements were heard yesterday in the trial of three men accused of being involved in the murder of Zaevion Dobson, the 15-year-old high school football star who died protecting friends from a drive-by shooting in Knoxville, Tennessee. Knox County Assistant District Attorney Phil Morton said when the shooting began that night in 2015, “Zaevion's instinct kicked in, and as a protector, he shielded these girls from gunfire... and in the process, he took the bullet,” according to the Tampa Bay Times. Dobson’s bravery was later cited by then-President Barack Obama, and he was posthumously awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2016 ESPY Awards.
Christopher Drone Bassett, 22, Kipling Deshawn Colbert Jr., 22 and Richard Gregory Williams III, 23, all face first-degree murder charges in connection with the murder, which occurred on December 17, 2015. Dobson and others were hanging out on the back porch of a friend’s house after attending a high school basketball game when gunfire began. Prosecutors said the gang-related shooting was one of several that day, in which 15 people were shot at, two fatally, including Dobson.
Zaevion William Dobson was a sophomore at Knoxville’s Fulton High School at the time of his murder. While playing on the Fulton football team, he was also a mentee of 100 Black Men of America, a nonprofit dedicated to "the advancement of African-American youth and community." His death was seen as emblematic of the senselessness of gun violence, and following his death President Obama tweeted, “Zaevion Dobson died saving three friends from getting shot. He was a hero at 15. What's our excuse for not acting?”
According to CBS affiliate WVLT, the jury was selected Monday afternoon after polling over 130 potential jurors. While the prosecution tried to portray the defendants as violent gang bangers, their defense lawyers claimed they didn’t belong to any gangs and were, in one of their words, “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” While Bassett, Colbert and Williams are being tried together, they each retain their own separate legal council.