Trader Joe’s Employee was Killed by Officer’s Bullet, LAPD Says

LOS ANGELES, California  —  Melyda Corado, a Trader Joe’s assistant manager who died during a shootout Saturday, was killed by an officer’s bullet, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said.

“I am truly sorry,” Moore said at a news conference Tuesday. “It is unimaginable, the pain of the Corado family. We share the pain today.”

Police said the disastrous chain of events started when suspect Gene Evin Atkins shot his 76-year-old grandmother and kidnapped a 17-year-old female acquaintance.

As Atkins fled in his grandmother’s car, he fired shots out the back window toward pursuing officers, police said. Authorities said the teen he kidnapped was shot in the head but survived.

Officers did not fire at the gunman during the chase. But after Atkins crashed the car outside a Trader Joe’s and continued shooting at police, officers returned fire, Moore said.

Footage recorded by officer body cameras released Tuesday shows two police partners firing shots as Atkins rushes into the store.

As Atkins fled into the Trader Joe’s, Corado was exiting the grocery store, police said. That’s when Corado was struck by LAPD gunfire.

After the fatal shooting, Atkins holed up in the store and kept those inside hostage. A three-hour standoff ensued, including hours of negotiations, before Atkins surrendered to police.

Atkins appeared in court Tuesday in a royal blue jail uniform, with his wrists cuffed and at his waist.

He said almost nothing while standing behind protective glass in a courtroom box some call “the cage.”

Atkins faces 31 charges, including one count of murder; six counts of attempted murder (including four counts of attempted murder against a police officer); one count of kidnapping; 13 counts of false imprisonment of hostages; one count of grand theft auto; and one count of felony evading.

A news release said Atkins was charged with murder “based on a provocative act theory of murder.” That is, prosecutors will argue his criminal acts caused consequences that were dangerous to human life.

He put off entering pleas until August 14. His bail is set at $18.7 million.

Both his grandmother and the wounded teen are in critical condition from their gunshot wounds, Moore said.

The police chief said the two officers involved in the shootout with Atkins are working with psychologists.

“I know that it is every officer’s worst nightmare to harm an innocent bystander during a violent engagement,” Moore said.

“They’re 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 is also a sobering reminder of the destruction … a lone individual with a handgun can create.”