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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Man accused of shooting state trooper makes first court appearance in Walla Walla

Sept. 23, 2022 Updated Fri., Sept. 23, 2022 at 9:33 p.m.

By Jeremy Burnham (Walla Walla) Union-Bulletin

The man accused of shooting Washington State Patrol Trooper Dean Atkinson Jr. Thursday was in court Friday, where he had his bail set at $1 million.

Brandon D. O’Neel, 37, of Walla Walla, appeared in Walla Walla County Superior Court virtually on a TV screen from the Walla Walla County Jail.

He was arrested on probable cause charges of first-degree attempted aggravated murder, first-degree attempted assault with a firearm and attempting to elude with a firearm.

Formal charges had not been filed as of early Friday afternoon, but Walla Walla County Prosecuting Attorney James Nagle told the Union-Bulletin newspaper he expected those charges by the end of day.

The law allows him 72 hours, not counting the weekend, from the time of O’Neel’s arrest to file charges.

The courtroom – typically mostly empty during first appearance dockets each morning – was nearly full Friday morning, with more than 20 law enforcement officers from various agencies present.

O’Neel had his head down for most of the hearing and rarely looked up, even when speaking to Judge Brandon L. Johnson .

Johnson assigned Walla Walla attorney Julie Carlson Straube to represent O’Neel at the hearing and to help him fill out paperwork to determine whether he qualifies for a public defender.

The case is being investigated by the Special Investigation Unit, a multi-agency team headed by Kennewick Police Commander Randy Maynard that primarily investigates shootings that involve officers in the Walla Walla and Tri-City areas.

According to police officials, O’Neel used his vehicle to ram Atkinson’s marked police cruiser around 5 p.m. Thursday on West Poplar Street near the intersection with Avery Street. He then shot Atkinson. According to The Seattle Times, Atkinson was shot in the face.

Atkinson drove himself to Providence St. Mary Medical Center about a mile away and walked into the emergency room.

About 8:15 p.m., he was taken by ambulance, with an escort of police and emergency vehicles, to the Walla Walla Airport, from where he was flown by plane to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

As of 12:07 a.m. Friday, he was in stable condition, according to a WSP release.

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