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Man gets 15 years for plot to release radiation in Fashion Square Mall

A Phoenix man was sentenced to 15 years in prison for plotting to kill himself by releasing stolen radioactive material in Scottsdale's Fashion Square Mall.

PHOENIX — A Phoenix man will spend the next 15 years in federal prison for stealing radioactive material that he then planned to release inside Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall as part of a suicide plot.

Jared Trent Atkins, 27, was arrested in April 2019 after a lengthy standoff at his apartment near 32nd Street and Campbell Avenue. At the time, police said they had recovered stolen radiography inspection equipment, but did not elaborate. 

Almost two years later, court documents show that radioactive material is potentially deadly and could have sickened or killed many others.

According to police, Atkins said he wanted to commit "suicide by cop" and drove to a gas station near his apartment where police said he stabbed a clerk in the chest. 

Then, Atkins admitted to driving to his job and stealing three Gamma-Ray Projectors, each containing a core off radioactive Iridium-192 pellets. 

Each one, according to the documents, could kill a person exposed to it for an hour within 30 days. 

According to the police report, he texted friends, "There's no easy way to say this, I've snapped."

Atkins told police he drove to Scottsdale Fashion Square, where he planned on making a "last stand" by releasing the radioactive pellets. But, it was 6 a.m. and the mall was closed.

Instead, Atkins said he headed up Highway 87 toward Payson and pulled over to the side off the road. He opened one of the containers and told police he planned to empty all three around himself to die of radiation poisoning. 

Prosecutors have not said why, but Atkins changed his mind and instead drove home and barricaded himself inside his apartment.

Hours later, Atkins surrendered to a negotiator and police recovered the Iridium and the tools. 

"What's troubling about this case is this is an insider job," said Ioanna Iliopulos, an adviser with the Nuclear threat Institute. 

"That's really enough radiation to cause severe radiation sickness or death after minutes," she said. 

Iliopulos said Atkins' plan was only one ingredient shy of a dirty bomb, but he didn't have an explosive. The radiation alone would have done damage regardless.

"You could give people a very high dose of radiation," Iliopulos said. "Because they don't know it's there."

Atkins plead guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction as part of a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney's Office. 

He was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. 

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