In the afternoon of April 15, 2008, Charles Atkins, a 26-year-old black man, was walking down a Baltimore street, about to meet a friend.
Two plain-clothes police officers happened to be in the neighborhood, and they spotted Atkins walking by. They became interested in him because, they claimed, Atkins was walking in a manner that suggested he was carrying a gun. The police decided to confront him.
After Atkins got into a car driven by his friend, the officers pulled their unmarked car in front of the vehicle, cutting it off. The first officer – wearing jeans and a t-shirt – exited the unmarked police car with his gun drawn. Unsure of what was going on and in a state of panic, Atkins’ friend threw the car in reverse and attempted to drive away backwards. The unmarked police vehicle followed. When the car stalled in the intersection, the first officer approached the passenger side of the vehicle – where Atkins was seated – and attempted to break the window with what appeared to be a gun.
Fearing for his life, Atkins opened the passenger door to flee. A struggle ensued. At some point, a gun went off, and Atkins ran toward his home, just up the block. As he did, the officers opened fire at him, and Atkins allegedly shot back. The evidence showed that one officer emptied his 14-round magazine, and the other fired nine rounds. Four cartridges were found near where Atkins had been standing. One officer was shot in the leg, in a downward trajectory, suggesting he may have shot himself. Atkins, meanwhile, was shot in the back and shoulder. As Atkins limped home, he allegedly tossed a gun into the grassy area on the west side of his house.
Backup units responded and surrounded the home. Two officers entered and, as Atkins retreated out the opposite door, he held his hands high to surrender. The officers waiting for Atkins near the door responded by opening fire, riddling Atkins’ body with bullets. Officers later claimed that Atkins had a gun, however, this was not true, as the only gun associated with Atkins was recovered in the grassy area on the other side of the house, where he had allegedly tossed it earlier (no additional weapon was recovered). During this second round of police shooting – in what appeared to be an effort to kill Atkins – police fired a total of 11 shots at the unarmed man. Atkins crumbled to the ground, face down. When officers demanded he show his hands, he was unresponsive, as he had been shot in the chest, abdomen, both legs, arm, shoulder, and lower back. The officers then tazed him as he laid limp on the ground.
Atkins was so badly injured that the police thought he was dead. Instead of giving him immediate medical attention, they covered his body with a white sheet. Only later did an ambulance arrive and transport Atkins to Shock Trauma, where he miraculously survived.
Atkins was subsequently charged with attempted first-degree murder of both officers, and other related charges. No action was taken against the police officers. After a trial – in which the judge refused to issue a self-defense instruction to the jury – Atkins was found not guilt of attempted murder but guilty of assault and a handgun violation. A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge sentenced him to 75 years in prison.
Brown Law is now attempting to win post-conviction relief for Charles Atkins – either by vacating his conviction or reducing his sentence. We have filed our petition and we are currently awaiting a hearing. The facts above are drawn from our petition. You can read the petition HERE