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Relatives of man killed by South Ogden police file wrongful death suit

By Mark Shenefelt standard-Examiner - | Aug 11, 2020
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The South Ogden Police Department is seen on Thursday, June 11, 2020.

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In this screen grab from South Ogden police dash cam video, Fredrick Jeremy Atkin's Ford Mustang is seen just before Officer Chris Freestone leaned into the passenger window. Police had been pursuing Atkin, who was shot and killed Dec. 27, 2019.

The family of an Ogden man killed by a South Ogden police officer last winter has filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit alleging unlawful use of deadly force.

Fredrick Jeremy Atkin, 42, was shot once in the chest by South Ogden Officer Christopher Freestone after a 45-minute low-speed chase Dec. 27, 2019.

“As can be seen from the angry profanity used by Officer Freestone prior to the stop, Freestone was animated by hatred and anger when he went up to the passenger window and shot Jeremy dead,” Blake Atkin, an attorney related to the immediate family of Jeremy Atkin, said in a U.S. District Court suit filed Monday.

The plaintiffs are Jeremy Atkin’s mother and father, Jody Atkin and Jolene Wardle; and his three children, Fredrick Jeresun Atkin, Jade Lorene Atkin, and a juvenile.

Defendants are Freestone, the cities of South Ogden, Ogden and Riverdale, and 10 unidentified police officers.

The suit, filed in Salt Lake City, recounted the 45-minute pursuit after Atkin ran a red light in Ogden.

Police reports obtained by the Standard-Examiner with a records request this summer detailed the pursuit by Ogden, Riverdale and finally South Ogden police.

Atkin never exceeded the speed limit but he ignored police commands to stop and eluded efforts to spike his tires or box him in, according to the police reports.

“Police continued to monitor his travel but determined that he was not a safety threat and that they would continue to monitor him,” the suit said of Ogden and Riverdale police.

But after South Ogden took the lead, Freestone used a bullhorn to order Atkin to stop.

Atkin still ignored the officer and Freestone shouted at Atkin to “stop the f—- — car.”

As Atkin’s red Mustang slowed at the intersection of 40th Street and Riverdale Road, Freestone got out of his cruiser, ran to Atkin’s passenger window and leaned in.

The gun went off.

There are no video views of the shooting itself.

An investigation by the Weber County Attorney’s Office cleared Freestone of criminal wrongdoing, saying the officer had a reasonable fear for his safety and that of other officers.

After the shooting, no gun was found, although various police officers said they had been worried Atkin might be armed.

Freestone, who received a medal of valor from his police chief two months after the shooting, declined to speak to investigators.

The relatives’ suit contends Freestone did not have probable cause to believe that Atkin posed a serious threat of physical harm to himself or others.

“Jeremy was not being pursued because he had committed any crime,” the suit said. “As demonstrated by the length of time police officers followed Jeremy … and indeed the communications of the officers involved, it is clear (Atkin) did not pose a threat to himself or others.”

The suit said there was “no need for police to use deadly force to effectuate the arrest.”

In police documents, officers said they were concerned by Atkin’s erratic behavior and his “thousand-yard stare” when they made eye contact with him.

An Ogden officer said he had contact with Atkin once before in a methamphetamine case.

The reports said no drugs were found with Atkin, and the autopsy report was not made public, according to state law, so any level of intoxication was unknown.

“The use of deadly force to effect an arrest is a violation of the rights of a non-violent suspect even if that suspect were suspected of having committed a felony,” the family’s suit said. “Here there was no felony.”

The suit also accused police agencies involved of failing to first use less lethal alternatives and failing to adequately train officers in the appropriate use of deadly force.

Further, it said officers at the scene that night were deliberately indifferent to helping Atkin after he was shot.

Those officers “were negligent in delaying first aid or other treatment of Jeremy after Officer Freestone shot him and while they were intent on handcuffing the mortally injured man,” it said.

The family’s attorney did not immediately respond to a phone call Tuesday.

Efforts to contact Matt Dixon, South Ogden’s city manager, also were unsuccessful.

Dixon previously had declined to talk about the case, citing pending litigation.

Police Chief Darin Parke and Freestone’s lawyer with the Weber County Fraternal Order of Police, J.C. Jensen, also did not respond to inquiries.


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