Man Accused of Shooting State Patrol Trooper Charged With First-Degree Attempted Murder


Charges have been filed against the man accused of shooting a Washington State Patrol trooper Thursday, Sept. 22.

Brandon D. O'Neel, 37, of Walla Walla, is charged with first-degree attempted murder with a firearm, first degree assault with a firearm and attempting to elude with a firearm.

Court documents say that in a note he left at his home before he was evicted earlier Thursday, O'Neel threatened to "execute any cop or manager you send period."

O'Neel is accused of shooting Trooper Dean Atkinson Jr. on West Poplar Street near the intersection with Avery Street.

Atkinson is at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle in stable condition, after being transported by plane from Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla. The Seattle Times reported that he was shot in the face.

First-degree attempted murder with a firearm and first-degree assault with a firearm are both Class A felonies with a maximum penalty of life in prison. Attempting to elude with a firearm is a Class C felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

O'Neel had his first appearance in Walla Walla County Superior Court Friday, Sept. 23, where he was assigned an attorney and had his bail set at $1 million.

O'Neel appeared on a TV screen from the Walla Walla County Jail.

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

Walla Walla County Prosecuting Attorney James Nagle argued for the state himself, another rarity at a first appearance hearings.

While O'Neel — who had his head down for most of the hearing and rarely looked up, even when speaking to Judge Brandon L. Johnson — said he wanted an attorney and couldn't afford to hire one, Johnson said he was unsure if O'Neel qualified for a public defender due to his income of about $2,000 a month.

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.

Nagle said while O'Neel has no felony history and very little criminal history of any kind, a high bail amount was warranted due to the seriousness of the offense. He also expressed concern over O'Neel not having an address.

Carlson Straube, appearing via telephone, said that "now isn't the right time" for her to argue that bail should be reduced. She agreed that an address would have to be determined first.

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.

The U-B has obtained the probable cause affidavit that provides additional context about the shooting.

Law enforcement arrived at O'Neel's residence to evict him earlier Thursday, but O'Neel wasn't home. According to the court document, officers found a sign inside that said "Bomb."

The WSP's bomb squad responded and did not find an explosive, according to the court document. The affidavit states that officers then found a handwritten note that said, "Evict me and I will execute any cop or manager you send period."

According to the probable cause affidavit, dispatch was alerted that O'Neel returned to his apartment at about 4:50 p.m. and could not access it. Witnesses said he left in a silver Toyota Echo.

The affidavit states that at about 5:07 p.m., witnesses saw a man, believed to be O'Neel, get out of a silver vehicle stopped in the roadway and fire a gun three to four times at Trooper Atkinson, who was driving a fully marked white police vehicle.

Witnesses said man then fled.

The affidavit makes no mention of O'Neel ramming the trooper's vehicle with his vehicle, as previously reported by officials.

A vehicle matching the one driven by the suspect was spotted by Milton-Freewater Police heading to Oregon. The vehicle entered Oregon and returned to Washington before being forced by law enforcement to come to a stop between Farmland Road and Old Milton Highway.

The driver, identified as O'Neel, was arrested.

Atkinson drove himself to Providence Saint Mary Medical Center, about a mile away from where he was shot, and was able to walk into the emergency room.