SOUTH OGDEN — Video taken at the scene of a fatal police shooting shows a South Ogden officer running toward the suspect’s car with his gun drawn.
After Officer Christopher Freestone leans into the passenger side of the red Ford Mustang, a gunshot can be heard on the audio feed from his police cruiser dash cam.
Just after the shot is heard, the Mustang’s brake lights flash on.
The confrontation Dec. 27, 2019, ended in the death of Fredrick Jeremy Atkin, 42, who had led police from at least four agencies on a slow-speed chase winding through Ogden, Riverdale and South Ogden.
Police video and audio obtained by the Standard-Examiner with a public records request provide detail expanding upon Weber County Attorney Chris Allred’s official report on the incident.
Allred’s May 26 report said no charges would be filed against Freestone, because the county attorney concluded the available evidence showed Freestone had a reasonable fear that his life or the lives of other officers were in danger when he leaned into the car.
During the pursuit, various officers reported they were worried that Atkin might be armed because at one point in Ogden as two officers tried to box him in, he reached down toward the console.
But the prosecutorial review’s outcome was complicated by Freestone’s declining to talk to investigators, an exercise of his constitutional rights.
MEDAL OF VALORTwo months after the incident, South Ogden City awarded its Medal of Valor to Freestone “for courageous performance of duty, involving high risk and imminent danger in the line of duty.”
It could not be determined whether the medal was tied to the Dec. 27 incident.
South Ogden Police Chief Darin Parke did not respond to requests for comment on the shooting investigation and the medal.
J.C. Jensen, a Weber County Fraternal Order of Police attorney who represented Freestone the night of the Atkin shooting, also did not respond to interview requests.
South Ogden City Manager Matthew Dixon said he could not discuss the medal award based on the city attorney’s advice and the possibility of litigation over Atkin’s death.
Blake Atkin, an attorney who is a cousin of Atkin’s father, said in an interview after Alled’s report came out that the family was “shocked” by Freestone’s actions and feels he should not be a police officer.
The dash cam recording from Freestone’s police car provides details from the point he and another South Ogden officer joined the pursuit of Atkin to the moment the fatal shot was fired.
The 45-minute meandering pursuit of Atkin began after he ran a red light at Wall Avenue and 31st Street in Ogden just after midnight.
Police followed the alternately weaving, slowing, stopping and swerving car through Ogden, then into Riverdale and South Ogden. Officers told investigators that Atkin’s car likely never exceeded the speed limit, but he resisted efforts to pull him over.
‘BOX HIM IN?’As Freestone joined the pursuit, he thrice asked for direction on the radio, “Want me to box him in or no?”
Another officer responded that Riverdale units had the lead at that point and they were just following him, apparently hoping he would stop before endangering anyone.
As the Mustang slowly neared the intersection of 40th Street and Riverdale Road, Freestone pulled alongside and yelled out his window into Atkin’s passenger window, “Stop the f---- — car.”
The video partially shows a 12-second sequence of Freestone’s car stopping, the officer getting out and running to the passenger side of the Mustang, and the brake lights flashing on after the shot.
The video quality appears to be adversely affected by the darkness, glare and winter steam on the police car’s windshield.
There were no views of the actual shooting in any other police videos, Allred’s report said.
REENACTMENTAs part of its investigation, county attorney’s investigators performed a reenactment of Freestone reaching into the Mustang.
Allred’s report theorized that the right-handed Freestone switched his Glock service firearm to his left hand as he leaned into the Mustang.
“I’m reaching in toward the gear shift but I can’t fit, I’m wedged,” a county investigator says on the reenactment video.
“So I’ve got the gun in my right hand and I’m looking in and I can’t reach the shifter,” he continues, grunting. “I can barely even touch it. I switch hands to the left and I can get it in.”
Allred’s report raised the possibility that the shot may have been accidental because the officer switched his gun to his off hand.
But another possibility was that Freestone intended to fire, because he was heard on police audio after the shooting telling other officers to check Atkin’s pockets, where “he was reaching.”
No firearm was found on Atkin or in his car.
OFFICER’S RECORDAccording to information obtained with public records requests, Freestone has an apparently spotless record with the Utah Police Officer Standards and Training Division and South Ogden City.
Freestone received state law enforcement officer certification on Jan. 9, 2015, and on Feb. 15, 2019, he received a 100% grade for POST instructor development certification, a course taught by the Ogden Police Department, POST records show.
POST said it had no records of any disciplinary actions against Freestone.
Freestone took his oath of office with South Ogden police on Feb. 22, 2018, city records show. He received a pay raise and an upgrade to Police Officer III on July 13, 2019.
Then he received the medal of valor from the police chief on Feb. 25.
INTOXICATION?During the pursuit, police discussed the possibility that Atkin was intoxicated. One officer said that from past contact with Atkin, he knew the man had used methaphetamine.
By state law, autopsy results are classified as protected records, accessible only by law enforcement, family and insurance personnel, so a records request yielded no information about Atkin’s level of intoxication that night, if any.
Reports did indicate that Freestone’s shot struck Atkin in the chest.
The shooting investigation came just prior to the eruption of national furor over police use of force, especially by white officers against minority suspects, highlighted by the death of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis.
Atkin was white. So is Freestone.