Alumnus, Capitol Police officer remains focused on law enforcement aspirations amid recent Capitol attacks
Alumnus and Capitol Police Officer Deon Atkins, who responded to the January 6 riots at the Capitol, said he was saddened by news of an attack that killed a colleague in the line of duty last week.
Capitol Police Officer William Evans was killed April 2, after a man drove his vehicle into Evans and another officer before hitting a barricade outside the U.S. Capitol.
Atkins, who graduated from Grand Valley in 2015 with a degree in criminal justice, works the night shift on the Senate division. He said while he didn’t know Evans personally, his colleagues shared that Evans was “a really nice guy.”
Though the past few months have been trying, Atkins said he remains committed to his career in federal law enforcement and his goal of becoming a special agent. He said he desires the high-level training and opportunity to handle criminal and national security investigations.
“It does become challenging to try and get past this year's series of tragic events that have transpired knowing it's not a matter of if but when the next attack will come,” said Atkins. “It can get frustrating knowing that most threats we can prepare for through intelligence gathering and good policing, while others we can’t prepare for because they happen spontaneously.
“My faith, and knowing fellow officers are watching each other’s backs, gives me assurance that I will make it home every day when I put on my uniform.”
Atkins said he was one of the officers who responded to the January 6 Capitol riots.
“I’m a midnight officer, so I had finished my shift previously and then heard the news so I came in to help,” he said. “I was there, but I can’t say exactly what I was doing because the investigation is still ongoing.”
Atkins is a private first-class officer who has been helping protect the Capitol, federal buildings and Congress since 2016.
While growing up in Benton Harbor, Atkins said he first thought about a career in law enforcement after he saw the movie “Rush Hour” with Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan.
“I thought they were so cool and knew I wanted to do that,” he said. “It stuck with me, and as I got older, I learned what I needed to do to get there.”
As a teenager, Atkins said participating in both the Benton Harbor Youth Leadership Academy and the Michigan Youth Leadership Academy made a deep impact on his life. The programs, run by a retired Michigan State police officer, focused on life skills and offered activities similar to that of a mini police academy.
“We learned how to swim and rescue dummies out of a car that was stuck at the bottom of the pool. We got to hydroplane in the police cars,” Atkins remembered. “We did a lot of stairs and physical activities.”
This experience came at a time when Atkins said he was trying to figure out his next steps in life.
“Around that time I lost my dad. I was going through that phase of trying to figure out and navigate what a man looks like,” he said. “I could see guys there who looked just like me and from my community and they made it. It was these troopers who stepped in and told me I could accomplish my goals. It was very profound.”
Atkins set a goal to be an FBI special agent, which requires both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. He said he chose Grand Valley because of the stellar reputation of the GVSU Police Academy, small class sizes and beautiful campuses.
After completing one year of graduate school, Atkins started his position as a Capitol Police officer after training through two police academies. He is now working toward a master’s degree in criminal justice at Grand Valley and is expected to finish in 2022.