The Boise Police Department is backing an officer who fatally shot a motorist while trying to make an arrest early Sunday.
“The officer was of the understanding that (the victim) was trying to get him off by hitting a sign,” Police Chief Larry Paulson said.
“When they have to make a split-second decision, that’s when the training pays off. In this case it did.”
James Justin Atkinson, 21, died after being shot in the head by a police officer. It was the second time this year a police officer has fired a fatal shot.
A passenger in the car Atkinson was driving, Rodney Page, 25, was treated for collision-related injuries. He was jailed on a contempt of court warrant but later released when friends paid a $410 fine.
Officers were patrolling downtown early Sunday when they observed a vehicle being driven recklessly through a congested parking lot. Two officers ran over to the parking lot and tried to stop Atkinson.
Atkinson refused and as he was driving away one officer tried to reach inside the car and turn off the ignition. The other officer also tried to reach inside the car and pull the car’s emergency brake.
Atkinson then sped off, causing one officer to be thrown from the car. The other officer was caught and dragged on the pavement.
The officer kept telling Atkinson to stop and, at one point, feared he would be slammed into a sign located close to the side of the road. He then pulled his gun and fired one shot at Atkinson, striking him in the head.
After being dragged for three more blocks, the officer was thrown from the car and landed in the traffic lane. He then had to roll out of the traffic lane to avoid being hit by oncoming traffic. Atkinson’s vehicle stopped after colliding with a building.
Atkinson was pronounced dead at the scene.
Atkinson was wanted on two outstanding warrants and his driving license was suspended.
The officer was taken to St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, where he was treated and released. Investigators have not yet released his name.
The city’s account of the shooting leaves questions for James “Randy” and Rheta Atkinson, the victim’s father and stepmother.
“My son was murdered by the Boise Police Department and this is a long way from being over,” Randy Atkinson said. “Why would you have to shoot someone point blank for a driving violation?”
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