SEATTLE — The father of Dean Atkinson Jr., the Washington State Patrol trooper who was shot in Walla Walla, gave an update on his son's condition on Monday.
According to Dean Atkinson Sr., his son has made major improvements during his recovery at Harborview Medical Center. He is now in serious, but improving condition.
On Sept. 22, WSP trooper Dean Atkinson Jr. was shot in the face while in his patrol car. According to Atkinson Sr., the suspect shot multiple rounds into Atkinson Jr.'s window. He attempted to defend himself by raising his arms and multiple bullets hit his hand.
Atkinson Jr. then drove himself to the nearest hospital, parked in the parking lot, then knocked on the emergency room doors.
“He parked in a parking lot, for some reason, I don’t know why. He knows where the ambulance bay is, but he didn’t want to prohibit an ambulance from getting up to the ER entrance,” Atkinson Sr. said. “I guess he figured there were other things more important than what he had going on.”
Officers arrested Brandon Dennis O'Neel, 37, and took him to the Walla Walla County Jail. He faces three felony charges.
When asked how his son feels about the person who did this, Atkinson Sr. said he would like to talk to him.
“I asked, ‘are you mad?’ and he said no. He just wants to meet him, so I’m thinking he has some stuff he wants to say to him,” Atkinson Sr. said.
Atkinson Sr. said his son is opening his eyes, eating, breathing on his own, communicating through physical movements and is in a good mental state.
Atkinson Sr. said his son has a tattoo on his arm that reads, 'always come home,' and he is thankful that he did.
“He had a little angel on his side," Atkinson Sr. said. "My wife’s mother passed away not too long ago and she attributes [his survival] to Amelia being there with him. He had a lot of things going for him that day.”
According to Atkinson Sr., his son is expected to make a full recovery.
“If he wishes, he should be able to return to doing what he was doing before,” Atkinson Sr. said.
When asked how it felt to have his son experience what he did, Atkinson Sr. said his years of responding to dangerous situations and his other public service experience has prepared him.
"I still call him junior, even though he’s 10 times the man I am for going through something like this," Atkinson Sr. said.
Atkinson Sr., a retired firefighter, served with his son in the National Guard. He said he's glad to see his son is making such a good recovery, and he'll stay by his side until he's ready to go home.
Atkinson Jr. has a lot to look forward to after he recovers, including his wedding next July.
Watch the full interview with Dean Atkinson Sr. here: