Trial date set for suspect in WSP trooper shooting

WALLA WALLA – A trial date has been set for the Walla Walla man accused of shooting Washington State Patrol Trooper Dean Atkinson Jr. on Sept. 22, 2022. Walla Walla County Prosecuting Attorney Gabe Acosta said the trial for Brandon Dennis O’Neel, 38, is scheduled to begin July 23.

O’Neel is charged with first-degree attempted murder, first-degree assault and attempting to elude a pursuing vehicle – all with firearm enhancements. He’s also charged with threats to bomb or injury property, plus harassment. All five counts are felonies.

Last May, O’Neel was admitted to the Eastern State Hospital to undergo competency restoration treatment after he was deemed incompetent to stand trial. Since then, Acosta states O’Neel’s competency has been restored.

An investigation revealed O’Neel shot Atkinson multiple times on the 1300 block of West Poplar Street in Walla Walla at 5:07 p.m. The injured trooper drove himself to Providence St. Mary Medical Center. Atkinson was then airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Prior to shooting Atkinson, O’Neel had been served an eviction notice at his apartment that morning. While the notice was being served, law enforcement located a sign reading “Bomb” inside the residence. No bomb was found and O’Neel was not at home at the time.

Investigators learned O’Neel shot Atkinson approximately 18 minutes after O’Neel returned to his apartment that afternoon to find he was unable to make entry. After allegedly ambushing Atkinson and shooting the trooper multiple times, O’Neel fled the scene and was captured later that evening.

Acosta anticipates Atkinson will testify at the trial.

Photo of shooting scene via Walla Walla Police Department