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.
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.
Along with the murder charge stemming from Corado’s killing, Atkins was charged with trying to kill his grandmother and the 17-year-old girl — the latter of whom was rescued by Los Angeles police officers from the passenger seat of the Camry outside Trader Joe’s. The teen, described by police as Atkins’ girlfriend, was shot once in the head and was listed in fair condition.
Atkins was also charged with four counts each of attempted murder of a peace officer and assault on a peace officer with a semiautomatic firearm, along with 13 counts of false imprisonment of a hostage.
The other counts against him include 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.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gustavo Sztraicher ordered Atkins to be held in lieu of $18.7 million bail pending his arraignment, which was postponed to Aug. 14 in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.
He could face a life prison sentence if convicted as charged, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
The Trader Joe’s store has been closed since the shooting, but 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 more than $33,000 as of early Tuesday afternoon.
Atkins’ cousin, Charleo Egland, told City News Service she didn’t know exactly what prompted the initial shooting in South Los Angeles, but said the grandmother did not want Atkins’ girlfriend in the home, and that likely led to a fight that prompted the shooting.
Another cousin, Deshon Hayward, said in a statement Monday to ABC7 that Madison, who was hospitalized in critical condition, “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.”
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 Corado. Four people were hospitalized with minor injuries and three others were evaluated but declined to be taken to hospitals.
At the Tuesday morning news conference, Moore released dramatic body- camera and dashboard-camera video of the chase and the shooting outside the Trader Joe’s to give a “snapshot” of what happened. He said 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.
He conceded that the video will be closely analyzed by the community and become the topic of discussion by critics who might question the tactics. But he again asked people to ask themselves, “What would you have done?”
Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is traveling out of the country, issued a statement saying: “Saturday was a dark day for the family of Melyda Corado, and it is our responsibility to shed light as quickly as possible on what happened. Melyda’s loved ones are entitled to answers — and Angelenos deserve complete transparency in understanding the full circumstances of her death.”
There was no immediate response from Corado’s family. Her brother, Albert Corado, retweeted posts Tuesday morning about Moore’s announcement, but did not respond to the news that it was a police officer who shot his sister.
On Monday night, he commented about the growing memorial outside the Silver Lake market.
“The amount of people who have left flowers and notes and have lit candles is astonishing,” he wrote. “Saw so many of her coworkers and people who came to celebrate my sister’s life.”
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