Dori: Father of WSP trooper shot in face credits son’s tattoo with surviving

Sep 28, 2022, 4:38 PM

Dean Atkinson Jr....

Money continues to pour in for Walla Walla State Patrol Trooper Dean Atkinson Jr., who was shot in the face last week in an ambush-style attack on September 22nd. (WSP)


Barely a week after his Washington State Patrol (WSP) cruiser was rammed in eastern Washington by a suspect who later shot him several times in the face, Trooper Dean Atkinson Jr. continues to recover at Harborview Medical Center, where he was airlifted after driving himself to a Walla Walla hospital.

What followed was a phone call every parent of a first responder fears, the trooper’s dad, Dean Atkinson Sr., told The Dori Monson Show.

“That call I had — ‘Dean’s been shot’ – that’s all I had,” Atkinson Sr. recalled. “I did everything I could to hold it together.”

The recently retired firefighter alerted his wife to get into the car and race to Providence St. Mary’s Medical Center soon after receiving the call. En route, the trooper’s parents had to call their son’s fiancée.

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“When we got to the hospital, I saw firefighters, police officers – everybody came to the hospital,” Atkinson Sr. told Dori, choking back tears.

The Walla Walla dad later learned from authorities that his son’s injuries allegedly came after a run-in with suspect Brandon Dennis O’Neel, 37. O’Neel has since been charged with ramming Atkinson Jr.’s WSP car before striking the trooper with at least five rounds. One bullet wounded the trooper’s lower jaw; another exited behind his eardrum.

The trooper’s progress, his father said, “is a complete miracle.”

“We don’t know how, but his eyes are open and he’s talking to us,” Atkinson Sr. described to Dori.

How, Dori wondered, did his son get to be so tough to drive himself to the ER?

“It’s not so much tough,” Atkinson Sr. said. “He’s always been compassionate. He’s not an ‘I’ guy; he’s a ‘we’ guy … He’s blown away by the support,” being shown for him on both sides of the state.

Atkinson Sr. told Dori he believes what drove his son to focus on saving his own life was his tattoo.

“He got a tattoo on his inner bicep right after he went into law enforcement,” the trooper’s dad said. “It says ‘Always Come Home’ in cursive with a blue line through it. I think that kid has that in his mind every time he goes to work. After the gunfire, he had that in his mind.”

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And what about when he’s released from the hospital? Dori asked.

WSP has told him that “if he chooses, there will be a new patrol car in his driveway when he gets home,” Atkinson Sr. said. “He wants to continue to serve his community.”

Listen to Dori Monson weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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