Nov. 5, 2012
Monica Lara, OVN correspondent
The 34-year-old man convicted of the 2010 attempted murder of a police officer in Ojai was sentenced to 23 years to life in prison Wednesday.
“I think it’s fair,” said Senior Deputy District Attorney Richard Simon, the prosecutor for the case. “It was a difficult trial for everyone involved because everyone was affected. My sympathies are with the defendant’s parents, but when you get down to it, this is a matter of what’s best for the whole community.”
John Atkinson, apologized to the court during the sentencing hearing at the Ventura County Superior Courthouse.
“I am horribly, horribly sorry about everything that happened,” Atkinson said.
He is expected to serve his time at the department of corrections and rehabilitation. He will be serving time for six felony convictions including attempted murder, assault on a peace officer and second-degree robbery. Also included are two misdemeanor offenses for abuse of an elder. Several enhancement charges, including attempted murder on a peace officer and personal use of a firearm during the crime, added to Atkinson’s sentence.
A jury found Atkinson guilty of all charges and allegations in September.
The three-week trial determined Atkinson committed a string of crimes when Traci Salmon, a Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputy at the time, responded to a 911 hang-up call at his parent’s house in the 4900 block of Casitas Pass Road December 10, 2010. Having responded to the call alone, Salmon knocked on the front door to check on the occupants’ safety. After a brief conversation, Atkinson became violent and tried to take Salmon’s stun gun and radio. Although she managed to shoot Atkinson in the leg, he gained control of her gun and turned it on her. Atkinson aimed the gun at her head and pulled the trigger, but the bullet did not fire, allowing for her to escape and call for back up on a personal cell phone.
“He had a complete psychotic breakdown,” said Deputy Public Defender Rebekah Mathis at the hearing. “It was unusual he had any serious problems up until that day.”
A victim impact statement, written by Salmon, was read during the hearing by Patricia Wood, a district attorney victim’s advocate. Although several supporters of Salmon filled the courtroom, she did not attend the sentencing.
The statement detailed Salmon’s struggles to reestablish normalcy in her life. Salmon no longer works in law enforcement, and deals with residual effects of the trauma including nightmares, anger and self-isolation.
“’I cannot wait until I am over this,’” Wood read from Salmon’s statement.
Diane and John Atkinson Sr. read a statement in court as well, pleading with the judge to not add time for his crimes against them.
“We hope for some type of rehabilitation so he could be out, sometime in our lifetime, and be part of our family again,” said Diane Atkinson.
Atkinson was taken back into custody after the sentencing hearing concluded. He will be ordered to pay restitution to Salmon and his parents to assist with restoration. The amount will be determined by the court at a later time.