Sen. Jason Atkinson bicycles in this image taken by his brother Andy Atkinson. The state senator was wounded by a dropped derringer Tuesday night. - Andy Atkinson

Dropped derringer wounds state Sen. Atkinson

Correction: See below.

Sen. Jason Atkinson is in serious condition from a gunshot wound to the right leg after a friend's .38-caliber derringer accidentally discharged Tuesday night, according to Central Point police.

The 37-year-old Central Point Republican met with visitors Wednesday in the intensive care unit at Providence Medford Medical Center after he underwent surgery to repair damage to the leg just above the knee. A family member said Atkinson's quick-thinking wife, Stephanie, applied a tourniquet fashioned out of a bicycle inner tube to stop the bleeding.

"He's doing fine," said Atkinson's father, Perry Atkinson, Wednesday afternoon. "He's stable. He's doing the best he can."

Perry, general manager of KDOV radio station in Medford, described what happened to his son as a "freak accident."

Providence spokeswoman Lauren Van Sickle could only describe Atkinson's condition as serious. She said she wasn't at liberty to discuss more details.

The accident occurred around 8 p.m. after a 53-year-old Jacksonville man brought his mountain bike over to have it worked on in Atkinson's garage in the 500 block of Blue Heron Drive in Central Point, according to Lt. Steve McGee of the Central Point Police Department. McGee wouldn't release the name of the Jacksonville man.

Atkinson, an avid cyclist, removed a small cloth bag attached to the bicycle, but dropped it and the derringer discharged, McGee said. Atkinson didn't know there was a loaded gun in the bag, he said.

McGee said there appeared to be no foul play involved in the incident.

"It is absolutely clear in my mind that it is a tragic, unfortunate accident," he said.

Atkinson, who represents parts of both Jackson and Josephine counties, ran for governor in the 2006 Republican primary. The John McCain campaign named him an honorary co-chairman in Oregon recently.

Atkinson works on his own as well as friends' bikes in his garage, using old campaign signs to protect the floor from grease. One of the signs was stained with blood from the accident as a Central Point detective investigated the scene Wednesday afternoon. The garage was filled with bikes, a canoe and other outdoor equipment.

McGee said it hasn't been determined whether the Jacksonville man had a concealed weapon permit. Even if he didn't, McGee said it would be unlikely that he would be prosecuted because the incident took place at a private residence.

Derringers of that type can discharge accidentally because they don't have the same kind of safety equipment as other guns, McGee said. The two-bullet derringer uses a hammer that drives a pin into the primer, he said. If the hammer is struck by hitting the floor or some other surface, it could discharge the weapon, he said.

McGee said there likely wouldn't be any charges filed against the Jacksonville man for failing to inform Atkinson that there was a gun in the bag. He said that would be a civil matter.

Andy Atkinson described his brother's condition as still serious.

The bullet missed the kneecap, but he worries that some damage may have occurred to the femur.

"He's aware he's going to have reconstructive surgery," said Andy Atkinson.

The situation could have been far worse if it hadn't been for Stephanie Atkinson's quick response, he said.

"Stephanie grabbed a bike tube and put it around his leg as a tourniquet," he said. "Stephanie pulled a 'Jeffro.' "

A "Jeffro" refers to Andy Atkinson's friend, Jeff Anderson, who helped Andy after he cracked open his skull in a skiing accident in 2002. The accident resulted in brain trauma and almost killed him.

Anderson packed Andy's head in snow to prevent it from swelling.

The man who owned the derringer, whom Andy Atkinson described as a fairly new friend of his brother's, has been devastated by the accident, he said.

Andy Atkinson said it was fortunate that his brother's 5-year-old son, Perry, wasn't in the garage when the gun went off.

During the day Wednesday, family members and other friends visited intensive care to check in on Atkinson.

Sen. Alan Bates talked with Atkinson in the hospital and described him as being in good spirits.

"He is one tough guy," said the Ashland Democrat. "He's taking it like a champ."

Bates said he didn't want to discuss Atkinson's medical situation, or a family connection that Bates has with the Jacksonville man who owned the derringer.

"Let's put it this way," he said. "I know everybody involved. Everyone's very upset."

He described what had happened to Atkinson as a "quirk accident."

Bates praised Atkinson's wife for her quick thinking in applying the tourniquet.

The family is also handling the situation well, said Bates, who expects Atkinson will recover quickly.

"Everyone should be proud of Jason Atkinson," he said.

Correction: The original subhead on this story was incorrect. This updated version includes the correct information.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

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