Update: Deadly Porterville Officer Involved Shooting

September 17, 2008 6:37:26 PM PDT
The Tulare County Sheriff's department is now revealing more details about the officer-involved shooting of a 21-year old man. Investigators now say Zachary Atkinson was shot in the back last Friday by a sheriff's detective.Sheriff's officials say Detective William Seymour, an 18-year veteran with the department, shot Atkinson. They say the detective had to shoot the suspect because he feared for his life. But an investigation reveals Atkinson was shot in the back and was not armed. Now, Atkinson's mother says the shooting was a big mistake.

A hand-painted sign reading "Justice for Zac" hangs on Beth Atkinson's friend's house in Porterville. Beth lives in Kentucky but is staying with her friend while she awaits information about her 21-year old son, Zachary, who was shot to death by an officer last Friday.

Beth Atkinson says "Nobody will talk to me or knows anything. I'm having a hard time finding a lawyer." The sheriff's office says Detective William Seymour pulled over along North Grand Street near Highway 65 where saw Zachary Atkinson driving a stolen motorcycle. The detective ordered Atkinson to stop. They say Atkinson refused and a struggle ensued.

Tulare County Sheriff's Sergeant Chris Douglass says "There was another officer safety issue with this person trying to drive our officer away with the motorcycle in motion. We were fortunate that he was able to stop the motorcycle and take him off the bike." Douglass says Atkinson tried to grab the officer's gun and then ran away again. She says that's when the detective fired three rounds at the suspect. Douglass says, "one actually grazed the thigh and went into the buttocks. Another one hit the buttocks area but actually didn't enter into the person at all it hit a wallet. And then one into the back."

Douglass says Atkinson had several run-ins with the police before and Atkinson's mother admits her son repeatedly would run from the police. But she's torn apart that he was shot in the back for trying to run away.

Beth Atkinson says "Somebody made a really big mistake. My son was 21-years old and he had his whole life ahead of him. He had a good job. Some people get high doing dope, some people get high drinking and some people get high in church. My son was an adrenaline junkie. He got high getting away from the cops."

An autopsy of Atkinson revealed he bled to death. Detective Seymour has been placed on paid administrative leave.

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