Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore revealed Tuesday that the bullet that killed 27-year-old Melyda Corado, the assistant manager at the Trader Joe’s in Silver Lake over the weekend, was fired by one of two LAPD officers — not murder suspect Gene Evin Atkins.
Moore said officers would agonize over what occurred but he feels they did what they had to do. The officers fired eight rounds in returning Atkins’ gunshots, Moore said, adding that the fatal bullet first hit her arm, then entered her body, Moore said.
The chief added in his briefing at LAPD headquarters that Atkins would be in court later Tuesday to be arraigned on charges of murder, attempted murder and kidnapping.
Before Saturday’s shootout at Trader Joe’s, Atkins allegedly shot and wounded his grandmother, who remains hospitalized, and 17-year-old girlfriend. He then allegedly led police on a chase, ending at the store.
Atkins, 28, was booked on suspicion of murder stemming from the Saturday death of the store manager who was shot as Atkins ran into the store while engaging in a shootout with pursuing Los Angeles police. The slaying is attributed him even though he did not fire the fatal bullet because he is held to have caused the entire situation. Atkins was being held in lieu of $9 million bail, Moore said.
“As chief of police, I am sorry for the loss, this tragic loss, not just to the Corado family, to her father, brother, (but) to her friends, to her work colleagues at Trader Joe’s,” Moore said. “This has been a devastating ordeal. On behalf of myself, and the men and women of this department, I want to express my deepest condolences and sympathy to her family and to everyone who knew her.
“I know that it is every officer’s worst nightmare, to harm an innocent bystander during a violent engagement,” Moore said. “I spoke to both of these officers this morning. They are devastated. They were devastated in the immediate aftermath of this event — that a person died in their efforts to stop Atkins. This is a heartbreaking reminder of the split-second decisions that officers must make every day. And it is also a sobering reminder of the destruction a lone individual with a handgun can create.”
The Trader Joe’s store remained closed Monday, while a memorial of signs and flowers in memory of Corado continued to grow outside the building. A GoFundMe page set up to help cover her funeral expenses had raised nearly $25,000 as of midday Monday.
Although Atkins was facing charges that included the roughly 1:30 p.m. Saturday shooting of his 76-year-old grandmother — Mary Elizabeth Madison — in the home they shared in the 1600 block of East 32nd Street. Authorities said the woman was shot as many as seven times and remains hospitalized in critical condition.
Atkins’ cousin, Charleo Egland, told City News Service she didn’t know exactly what prompted the shooting, but said the grandmother did not want Atkins’ girlfriend in the home, and that likely led to a fight that ended with the shooting.
Another cousin, Deshon Hayward, said in a statement Monday to ABC7 that Madison “is doing good and is in good spirits.”
“She has a long journey ahead but everything is looking good,” he said. “We would like to send our deepest condolences to everyone that was affected by this horrible tragedy.”
Police said Atkins’ girlfriend was also wounded in the shooting, and Atkins forced her into his grandmother’s car then drove away with her in the passenger seat.
Using a LoJack system, police traced the 2015 Toyota Camry sedan to the Hollywood area and gave chase, leading to Silver Lake, where Atkins crashed the Toyota into a power pole around 3:30 p.m. in front of the Trader Joe’s supermarket in the 2700 block of Hyperion Avenue, Moore said.
In his media briefing Tuesday morning, Moore said Atkins got out of the car and ran into the store, firing at officers as he ran toward the entrance to the business.
Moore said two officers returned fire as they were getting out of their patrol car, and one of the bullets hit Corado as she was exiting the store.
A short time later, Corado was seen being dragged away from the store’s entryway and then unsuccessfully treated by paramedics trying to revive her.
Moore said about 40 people were in the store when Atkins entered. As Atkins ran inside, employees and customers inside scrambled for cover.
Some were seen escaping through a window toward the rear of the business and crawling down a ladder to safety. Police were also seen carrying several children away from the building.
Atkins’ girlfriend, who had been in the passenger seat of the Toyota when it crashed in front of the store, was taken to a hospital in fair condition. Fire officials described her as a 20-year-old woman.
Police amassed outside the store, and around 5:30 p.m., at least three people who appeared to be customers came out of the store with their hands in the air — apparently hostages who were released or shoppers who had managed to elude the gunman.
Atkins surrendered at about 6:30 p.m. He was taken to a hospital to be treated for a gunshot wound to his left arm.
Margaret Stewart of the Los Angeles Fire Department said paramedics treated 10 people at the scene of the Trader Joe’s, including Atkins, his girlfriend and Melyda Corado. A 12-year-old boy, a 41-year-old woman, a 70-year-old woman and an 81-year-old woman were hospitalized with minor injuries and listed in fair condition, Stewart said. Three other people were evaluated, but declined to be taken to hospitals.
Tuesday morning, Moore displayed video from the patrol car and from the officers’ body worn cameras that showed part of the incident. He said Tuesday morning’s release of video was a “snapshot” of what happened, and that a more comprehensive video would be released within 45 days of the shootout, under a new policy recently mandated by the Police Commission. A final report would be issued some time after that, which would include video and written materials.