A judge Wednesday ordered a court-appointed psychiatrist to examine a man accused of engaging in a gunfight with police that resulted in the death of the assistant manager of a Trader Joe’s store in Silver Lake, after his attorney questioned his client’s mental competence to stand trial.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lisa B. Lench declared a doubt about Gene Evin Atkins’ competence at the request of defense attorney Michael Morse and suspended criminal proceedings in the case pending the psychiatrist’s evaluation of the defendant, who is due back in court April 15.
Deputy District Attorney Tannaz Mokayef told the judge that she believes Atkins is “pretending” and “totally understands” what is going on in court.
At a hearing about a year ago in which Atkins said he had been “sent here by Jesus” and didn’t understand anything, the prosecutor told another judge that “what you’re witnessing here today is an act” to delay the proceedings.
Atkins, now 30, is accused of setting off a chain of events on July 21, 2018, that led to the death of Melyda Maricela Corado, who was fatally shot by a police officer in front of the store in the 2700 block of Hyperion Avenue.
Atkins was ordered last Sept. 3 to stand trial on 51 counts, including murder, attempted murder, attempted murder of a peace officer, assault on a peace officer with a semiautomatic firearm, kidnapping, fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle while driving recklessly, grand theft of an automobile, discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, shooting at an occupied motor vehicle, false imprisonment of a hostage and mayhem.
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore confirmed in 2018 that the bullet that killed Corado was fired by an officer, not Atkins, who surrendered to a SWAT team after about three hours of negotiations following a tense standoff inside the store, where a number of customers and employees were held hostage.
Though he did not shoot Corado, Atkins is charged with her killing under the theory that he set off the chain of events that led to the 27-year-old woman’s death, in which he allegedly shot his 76-year-old grandmother and his 17-year-old girlfriend in South Los Angeles, then took his grandmother’s car and led police on a wild chase during which he tried to carjack a white Jeep Wrangler at gunpoint at a gas station.
He allegedly fired shots at police during the chase, and again when he got out of the car following a crash and fled into the store, holding customers and employees at gunpoint inside before surrendering hours later.
Atkins has pleaded both not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity.
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