Indiana man killed by Fort Knox Police was ‘mentally ill,’ attorney says

William Atkins of Salem was killed after he “illegally breached” the main gate at Ft. Knox at...
William Atkins of Salem was killed after he “illegally breached” the main gate at Ft. Knox at 11 p.m. Sunday night, a U.S. Army press release said.(Family Photo)
Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 6:23 PM EST
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FORT KNOX, Ky. (WAVE) - An Indiana man, shot and killed by Fort Knox Police, struggled with mental illness according to his family’s attorney.

William Atkins of Salem was killed after he “illegally breached” the main gate at Ft. Knox at 11 p.m. Saturday night, a U.S. Army press release said.

“He suffered from a mental illness that, on this evening, clearly manifested itself to its fullest degree,” attorney Larry Wilder said.

Wilder said he had been representing Atkins after he was arrested in 2020 on charges of robbery, being armed with a deadly weapon and kidnapping.

He said Atkins followed court instructions to seek treatment for schizophrenia, and with the case against him still pending, had successfully held a job and operated a business.

“It is a failure that someone lost their life who was suffering from mental illness this clearly,” Wilder said on Monday. “We were trying to do everything we could. And I feel like I failed.”

The Army said Atkins drove through the main gates at Ft Knox 11 p.m. Saturday and a brief police chase ending in a standoff.

Just an hour earlier, Wilder said Atkins called his mother to say that he had planned to marry and needed to talk to God. Wilder said Atkins also mentioned needing to see an angel named Clarence.

“And that is a reference, we believe, is a reference to Clarence the angel from the movie, ‘(It’s) A Wonderful Life,’” Wilder said.

The Army press release said that during the standoff, “officers tried to verbally deescalate the situation for about 90 minutes before the man then attempted to ram and run over responding officers, which directly led to the shooting.”

Wilder said Atkins was unarmed and that deadly force should not have been necessary.

“That was not a war zone,” Wilder said. “This is an unarmed man suffering from a mental breakdown who, clearly they had to know, because I’m sure they don’t chat with everybody for an hour and a half.”

No motive has been determined in the case.

“There is no initial indication that this incident was extremist or terrorist related,” an Army press release said.

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WAVE — Louisville and Southern Indiana's NBC affiliate. Follow us on Twitter & Instagram @wave3news.(WAVE)

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