Suspects Charged in Death of High School Football 'Hero' Killed Shielding Girls from Gunfire

President Barack Obama recognized Zaevion Dobson's heroism

Photo: Knoxville Police Department(2)

Two suspects have been charged in the December 2015 shooting death of Zaevion Dobson, the Tennessee 15-year-old who died a hero after shielding two girls from gunfire, PEOPLE confirms.

According to police, after the suspects allegedly opened fire on a crowd last year, Dobson grabbed two girls and threw himself on top of them. He was posthumously recognized by President Barack Obama, who tweeted that he was “a hero at 15,” and he received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at this year’s ESPYs, ESPN’s award show.

Christopher Bassett and Richard Williams, both 21, were charged Thursday with the first-degree murder of Dobson, attempted first-degree murder of eight other people and employing a firearm during the commission of a felony, Knox County District Attorney General spokesman Sean McDermott tells PEOPLE.

Bassett was also charged with unlawful possession of a weapon because he has previous felony convictions on drug and vandalism charges, McDermott says.

Both suspects are held on a $1 million bond and neither has been arraigned or entered a plea, McDermott says. It was not immediately clear if they’d retained attorneys for these charges.

According to McDermott, both suspects were already in custody when they were charged: Bassett was in the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center after a theft conviction while Williams was in the Knox County Detention Center awaiting trial on several charges, including the alleged attempted first-degree murders of Jamir Greenlee and Larry Eugene North in April 2016.

One of the victims in that alleged attack is connected to the earlier shooting, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE: North was a witness to Dobson’s fatal shooting.

It was not immediately clear if Williams has entered a plea to the 2016 murder charge and his attorney in that case, Aubrey Davis, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

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After Dobson’s death, Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch told PEOPLE that he was part of a group of kids singled out by two suspects with alleged gang ties.

“They were just looking for someone to shoot up,” Rausch said. “They saw this group of friends and just opened fire.”

(Police and the district attorney’s office are not releasing any additional information on the shooting.)

Rausch told PEOPLE that Dobson was one of two boys raised by a single mother. The football standout mentored youth in his economically distressed neighborhood and was active in his church.

“What makes this so tragic is we had this outstanding kid who was doing everything right in life and dies senselessly, because cowards opened fire on a group of unarmed teenagers,” Rausch said. “It’s just such a tragedy.”

After his death, Dobson’s high school football coach, Rob Black, told WVLT, “He’s a sophomore and already successful, already leading a life that’s contagious, that people follow.”

Black added, “[He was] so very liked by his peers and his teachers and his teammates. And that makes him successful.”

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