A physician who was fatally shot while trying to help his neighbor after she was wounded in a domestic shooting was awarded with an honor.
For Dr. Kenneth Atkinson, 65, helping people was second nature. The Centennial doctor, who died in a hail of bullets that authorities say were fired by a neighbor, was known for forgoing his fees if a patient couldn’t afford to pay, said Mari Delapp, his office manager.
Neighbors said Atkinson ran out of his home to help two women who were wounded in the rampage, one of whom is the wife of the suspected shooter, Kevin Lee Lyons.
“I am not surprised that he ran out to help,” said Terry Thompson-Manning, Atkinson’s patient for 30 years. “He was the best at what he did.”
Atkinson and a female neighbor attempted to offer their assistance.
But the gunman opened fire, hitting both women and Atkinson.
As Atkinson kneeled to attend to his wounded neighbor and called 911, he was shot by the suspect in the leg, and then fatally shot as he tried to take cover behind a vehicle. Atkinson was shot twice, according to the Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office — once in the head and another time in the torso.
The doctor was pronounced dead at the scene, while the women were transported to area hospitals.
Authorities identified the two women wounded in shooting incident in the 6100 block of East Long Circle South as Lyons’ wife, 44-year-old Elizabeth L. Lyons, and 46-year-old Laurie H. Juergens. Both are expected to fully recover.
“He helped people and he cared so much,” she said. “He was very dedicated. He would come in if someone needed to be seen, and many times there were patients who couldn’t pay and he would work it out or do it for nothing.”
Atkinson was an active man and a philanthropist who was dedicated to his family, Delapp said.
Pam Stout, a neighbor, was also one of his patients. When she was hospitalized after being diagnosed with cancer, Atkinson came to visit, even though he was not her treating physician.
Atkinson had known personal tragedy, losing two children to Fanconi anemia, an inherited disease that can lead to bone marrow failure and cancer.
He and his wife, Jeanne, lost their daughter, Kendall, in 2004 when she was 21 and a sophomore in college. Their son, Taylor, died soon after, at 18.
The couple reacted to the loss by establishing the Kendall and Taylor Atkinson Foundation, which helps to fund medical and scientific research into the disease, a neighbor said.
The Foundation also supports programs to enhance the lives of children living with disease, disability and poverty.
Atkinson, a runner, competed in the Boston Marathon in honor of his two dead children.
He was considering retirement, Delapp said, but he wasn’t in any hurry to leave his practice.
“He loved being a doctor,” she said.
He had recently gotten a new horse and was looking forward to training it, she added.
Atkinson and his wife have two adult daughters and five grandchildren. One of the grandchildren was born within the last few weeks, Delapp said.
The shooting suspect, pleaded not guilty in the charges during the trial, including first-degree murder.
The doctor was awarded with a medal and one of 19 people being honored with Carnegie medals for heroism.