Thousands mourn slain Phoenix officer

State Press

According to April Atkinson, the big brother who used to beat her up in that big-brother way grew up to be one of the good guys.

He delighted in teasing her and even made the boys she dated fill out applications. When he became a Phoenix police officer, she said, he gave that up in favor of checking the boys’ police records.

Marc Atkinson, 27, died March 26 while pursuing drug suspects near 30th Avenue and Catalina Drive in Phoenix.

“No matter what, he was always my protector,” April said as she eulogized her brother. “He was always there for me. He always had time for me.”

Funeral services for Atkinson were held Thursday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Peoria. Mourners filled the church beyond its 1,800-person capacity. A live video feed was set up in auxiliary rooms to accommodate the more than two thousand people.

Attending the memorial were Gov. Jane Hull, Phoenix Mayor Skip Rimsza, Phoenix police Chief Harold Hurtt and law enforcement officers from across the state.

Tempe police Officer Steve Smith, who was involved in a March 19 shooting near East Sixth Street and South Mill Avenue in Tempe, and his wife also attended the funeral. He said Atkinson’s death is difficult for him because it came so soon after other police shootings in the Valley.

“It brings home the fact that anything can happen,” he said. “It’s going to be a long, hard road for (the Atkinson family), but there’s a lot of help and a lot of support.”

In the Tempe incident, Mesa resident Brian K. Ball shot Sgt. John Schaper and Officer Chuck Bridges before being shot and killed. Schaper was released from the Maricopa Medical Center Tuesday and Bridges was unharmed after a bullet ricocheted off his bulletproof vest.

Phoenix police Lt. Mark Zingg did not know Atkinson, but he and his wife Nancy were among the first to arrive at Phoenix Memorial Park for the slain officer’s burial.

“Every time something like this happens you realize how really dangerous it is out there,” he said. “I think everyone evaluates their own mortality.”

Felipe Petrona-Canañas, 17, Oberlin Cabañas-Salgado, 18 and Oscar Garcias-Martinez, 22 are all being charged in connection with the shooting.

Atkinson was a former U.S. Marine and served in the Gulf War before becoming a police officer.

“I saw him go off to war and I saw him come home from war,” his sister said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am.”

Atkinson left behind a wife, Karen, and an infant son, Jeremy. Contributions can be made in his name to the Phoenix 100 Club, c/o Officer Marc Atkinson No. 5930, P.O. Box 30604, Phoenix, AZ 85046-0604 or at any Bank One, account No. 0749-7777.

Photos by Jeremy Hein of the State Press

Above: Members of Atkinson’s squadron place their gloves atop the fallen officer’s casket.

Left: David Gleghorn (right) comforts his daughter Karen Atkinson Thursday during the playing of slain Phoenix police Officer Marc Atkinson’s final call over police radios during funeral services at Phoenix Memorial Park.