MARYVILLE — To many people around Blount County and beyond, Maryville police officer Kenny Moats was a hero who was killed Thursday trying to protect the citizens of the community.
But to April Davis, he was also a friend and former schoolmate from Heritage High School.
“He was a pretty good friend,” she said as she laid a small bouquet of flowers Friday morning at the makeshift memorial near the Maryville City Municipal Building downtown. “He was really fun, always happy.”
Authorities say Moats, age 32, was killed by a single bullet wound to the neck Thursday afternoon while answering a domestic disturbance call at Kerrway Lane and Alcoa Trail. The shooter, Brian Keith Stalans, 44, was taken into custody a short time later.
Moats has three children, and a memorial fund has been established, officials say. “Anyone who wishes to contribute to the fund can drop off donations at CBBC Bank or the City of Maryville – please checks payable to the Kenny Moats Memorial Fund,” the city said. People who want to donate can contribute at CBBC Bank or the City of Maryville, according to a release from the city.
A vigil was held at the Blount County Courthouse Friday evening.
Moats, the father of three children and a 2002 graduate of Heritage High, had been employed by the Maryville Police Department since 2007.
Davis said she cried when she heard the news that he was the one killed. “It’s pretty devastating,” she said. “He was a very good person, and my respects are with him and the family.”
Ashlea Settlemyre, who along with Caroline Fontinell was also laying flowers on the grassy area in front of the brick city of Maryville sign at West Broadway Avenue and Highway 321, said she also felt a need to show support.
“We have a lot of family who are on the police force and it’s just a complete brotherhood,” she said. “And we just want to come out and support the community and everybody in Blount County and the Maryville Police Department as well.”
Fontinell said she was having trouble coming to grips with a tragedy occurring in her community.
“It’s really close to home,” she said. “It’s hard to stomach that it would be in our community.”
Upon hearing on Thursday that Moats’ father was in Florida, Clayton Homes sent a private jet to pick him up and bring him to Maryville.
“We heard from various officers that it was very important to all of them and the family to get the father here last night, and we responded,” said Kevin Clayton, CEO of Clayton Homes. “We know, trust, believe in, and get a tremendous amount of support from all the local officers.”
The headquarters for Clayton Homes is about a quarter-mile from the location of the shooting.
By Friday morning signs of the shooting were apparent in numerous places in downtown Maryville, which was otherwise calm. A large American flag in front of a realty office a few away from the memorial site was flying at half-staff, and across Broadway Avenue from the municipal building, people were standing in line at The Village Tinker to buy T-shirts honoring Moats.
A floral delivery van was also parked for several minutes in front of the Municipal Building, while the driver carried numerous bouquets and pots of flowers inside.
By early afternoon, people were lining the Maryville streets waiting for vehicles to bring Moats’ body from Knoxville.
A couple walked into the police headquarters on Broadway Avenue with foil-covered plates of food for the grieving officers. They said they just wanted to help.
Firefighters and law enforcement stood in salute as the motorcade passed in front of the downtown police station and fire hall.
Maryville Vice Mayor Andy White was among at least 100 who watched the procession.
“It’s a very tight-knit community,” White said.
He also recognized the need to grieve, especially for police officers.
“It’s going to be tough in the weeks and the months ahead. That’s why it’s important for us to get behind them and support them,” White said. “They need to mourn. There’s a grieving process.”
The death was being felt throughout Blount County.
Blount County Director of Schools Rob Britt said, while taking part in the unveiling of some new technology at William Blount Ninth Grade Academy, that he was extremely saddened by the news.
“The Blount County community is a close-knit community,” he said. “We love our law enforcement folks. We are just thinking and praying for that family and, obviously, for all of our law enforcement officials today.”
He said he met with the system’s principals Friday morning and they had a moment of silence. Also, the flags at all the schools were ordered to fly at half-staff.
Heritage High planned a special program during its football game Friday to honor Moats. And the elementary school where his children attend is collecting funds for the family.
At that school, Porter Elementary, principal Jared Smith remembered Moats as a dedicated father he saw dropping his kids off in the morning.
“He always had a smile on his face,” Smith said. “He recently had grown a beard. I joked with him about that. It takes a special man to rock a beard like that … you could cut up with him.”
Smith said he witnessed the love Moats had for his children.
“You could tell by his interactions with them,” Smith said. “When we got word (Thursday), it was devastating. You think, ‘There’s three great kids who won’t have a dad anymore.'”