Relatives of a Silver Lake Trader Joe’s assistant manager who was killed by a police bullet when an armed suspect fled into the store sued the city of Los Angeles Thursday, saying they are still seeking answers about the shooting that the city and police department have refused to answer.
The Los Angeles Superior Court complaint brought by Albert Corado and Albert Corado Jr., the father and brother of Melyda “Mely” Corado, also names as defendants Los Angeles Police Department Officers Sinlen Tse and Sarah Winans, who fired the shots at the Traders Joe’s store.
The suit alleges wrongful death, negligence civil rights violations and battery. The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages.
Rob Wilcox of the City Attorney’s Office said his office will review the complaint, but that he had no additional comment. When the family filed a damages claim in October, an LAPD spokesman said the department does not comment on litigation matters.
Attorney John C. Taylor, on behalf of the plaintiffs, said during a news conference at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel that neither Mayor Eric Garcetti nor LAPD Chief Michel Moore have updated the Corado family on the investigation, despite commitments the two public officials made to do so.
Taylor called the fatal shooting an “out-of-policy” shooting in which no tactical plan was established. He said Trader Joe’s had no liability in the shooting and the store “was as much a victim as Mely Corado.”
The suit alleges that the city has a custom and practice of using excessive police force, refusing to discipline officers who engage in misconduct and not properly training them in apprehending suspects, leading to use of force that harms innocent bystanders.
Mely Corado, 27, was killed July 21. Police said she was struck by a bullet fired by an officer toward Gene Evin Atkins, 28, who had led police on a chase from Hollywood to Silver Lake, allegedly after shooting his grandmother and a teenage girl in South Los Angeles that morning. Atkins crashed his grandmother’s car in front of the Silver Lake Trader Joe’s store and ran inside, allegedly while firing at pursuing police. Corado was struck by a police bullet when she walked to the front of the store, police said after the shooting.
Albert Corado Sr. said the family has been unable to get complete answers from the LAPD about his daughter’s death.
“It breaks my heart to see my son, a full grown-up man, crying … asking me, `Daddy, why did this happen to us,” he told reporters Thursday. “I have no answers.”
He said he will dedicate the rest of his life to keep his daughter’s memory alive.
Albert Jr. said the LAPD has denied the family access to “the least shred of evidence” and has refused to turn over the autopsy report, claiming it is the subject of a security hold. Instead, the family has received “empty gestures and empty words,” he said.
Addressing his late younger sibling posthumously, Albert Jr. said, “Wherever you are, I promise you there will be justice.”
Moore said in July that his officers were under fire from Atkins, and they 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, who apologized to the Corado family after learning she was struck by an officer’s bullet, called the shooting “every officer’s worst nightmare, to harm an innocent bystander during a violent engagement.”
Atkins holed up inside the store for about three hours, with dozens of customers and employees still inside, before surrendering peacefully.
Attorneys for the Corado family have criticized the LAPD for releasing edited dash-cam and body-camera footage of the shooting in what they deemed an orchestrated effort to frame the events leading to her death in support of the officer’s actions. They said they want to see the complete, unedited video footage.
When it released additional video footage in September, the LAPD issued a statement saying the materials were being made public to provide context to the deadly shootout, but some video was being 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,” the LAPD’s September statement read. “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.”
The statement noted that “there is both a criminal and administrative investigation that precludes us from providing any more video evidence at this time.”
Atkins has been charged with more than 50 felony counts, including murder for Corado’s death, even though he did not fire the shot that killed her. He was charged under the theory that he set off the chain of events leading to her death.
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 Moore. A short time later, Atkins crashed into a light pole outside the Trader Joe’s in the 2700 block of Hyperion Avenue, leading to the gunfire and standoff at the store.
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