Los Angeles police Tuesday released additional video footage and audio recordings from the July 21 chase and gun battle that ended with the fatal shooting of a Silver Lake Trader Joe’s assistant manager by pursuing officers.
But the family of the assistant manager — 27-year-old Melyda Corado — blasted the Los Angeles Police Department for what they called an orchestrated effort to frame the events that led to her death, and the agency’s alleged refusal to turn over requested video and documents.
“We are devastated by her loss,” Corado’s father, Albert, told reporters at a downtown Los Angeles news conference with his attorneys. “We have many questions about how Mely died, but we don’t have any answers. We are here to ask the Los Angeles Police Department to turn (over) evidence so we can move on with our lives.”
The LAPD previously released dashcam and officer body-camera footage of the pursuit of Gene Evin Atkins, 28, who allegedly shot his grandmother and a 17-year-old girl in South Los Angeles then led a pursuit in which he fired shots at police before crashing in front of the Trader Joe’s store.
Atkins is accused of exchanging gunfire with police as he fled into the store, where Corado was struck by a bullet fired at Atkins by an LAPD officer.
Atkins, who remains jailed on $23.1 million bail, is charged with Corado’s killing, even though he did not fire the shot that struck her. Under state law, he was charged with her killing because he allegedly set off the chain of events that led to her death.
The additional material released by the LAPD Tuesday includes 911 calls from the original shooting in South Los Angeles, and more dashcam video during the ensuing pursuit that appears to show the suspect firing at pursuing officers through a window of the car he was driving.
Despite the release of additional material, however, attorneys for Corado’s family called on the LAPD to release complete, unedited video and audio of the entire chase and shooting.
Attorney John C. Taylor called the video and audio released thus far nothing more than a “highly edited, narrated, slickly produced public relations piece” designed to “shine the most favorable light on the actions of officers involved in this shooting.”
Taylor called the gunfire an “out-of-policy shooting,” saying the officers opened fire toward the store “without assessing the background confronting them.”
“They shot toward the direction of Trader Joe’s and at least four or five visible people in front of the store and on the side of the store,” he said.
Taylor said Corado’s family “does not know what Mely Corado’s last moments were like or how she died or how long from the time that she was shot until she died or the location where she died.”
Attorney Ron Rosengarten said the LAPD has also blocked the release of Corado’s autopsy report.
“We’ve also been told that toxicology tests have been ordered on Mely that will further delay the release of this information and the report,” he said. “We have not heard a reasonable explanation for why toxicology tests were ordered for her.”
The LAPD issued a statement saying the release of additional material Tuesday was aimed at providing context to the deadly shootout, but some video has been withheld to preserve the integrity of ongoing investigations into Corado’s death.
“We will never fully be able to understand how painful this tragic incident has been for the Corado family, and the Los Angeles Police Department joins in the mourning of her loss,” according to the LAPD. “The department demonstrated its commitment to transparency when it released portions of digital in-car and body-worn video of the officer-involved shooting a little over 48 hours after the incident. Today’s critical incident community briefing is an effort to provide more context surrounding what happened on July 21st, 2018, however, there is both a criminal and administrative investigation that precludes us from providing any more video evidence at this time.”
Police Chief Michel Moore previously apologized to the Corado family after revealing that she was killed by an officer’s bullet, but he has spoken out in support of his officers’ actions, saying they were under fire and did “what they needed to do in order to defend the people of Los Angeles and defend the people in that store and defend themselves.”
Moore called the shooting “every officer’s worst nightmare, to harm an innocent bystander during a violent engagement.”
Atkins allegedly shot his 76-year-old grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Madison, as many as seven times and shot a 17-year-old girl around 1:30 p.m. July 21 at his grandmother’s South Los Angeles home in the 1600 block of East 32nd Street. He then allegedly kidnapped the teenager and drove off in his grandmother’s 2015 Toyota Camry. Police spotted him in Hollywood, sparking a chase in which Atkins fired shots at pursuing officers through the rear window of the Camry, according to Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore. A short time later, Atkins crashed into a light pole outside the Trader Joe’s in the 2700 block of Hyperion Avenue.
Atkins got out of the car and ran into the market, allegedly shooting at pursuing officers, who returned fire, striking the suspect in an arm but also hitting Corado, who had walked to the front entrance of the store when the car crash occurred, Moore said.
Atkins holed up inside the store for about three hours, holding multiple shoppers and store employees hostage, police said. Several hostages were released during the standoff, and Atkins eventually walked out and surrendered.
Atkins was originally facing 31 felony charges, but prosecutors later added 20 more counts — many of them based on the number of people determined to have been in the Trader Joe’s market when he ran inside. In addition to murder, Atkins is facing charges of attempted murder of a peace officer, assault on a peace officer with a semiautomatic firearm, false imprisonment of a hostage, fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle while driving recklessly, grand theft of an automobile, driving or taking a vehicle without consent, discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, shooting at an occupied motor vehicle and assault with a firearm.
He could face a life prison sentence if convicted as charged, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
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