A woman killed in a shootout between cops and a hostage taker at a Los Angeles Trader Joe’s died after police shot her, the LAPD said on Tuesday.
Melyda Corado, 27, was fatally wounded as she ran out of the grocery store, where she worked as an assistant manager, after gunman Gene Evin Atkins, 28, crashed his car into the store in the Silver Lake section of LA on Saturday afternoon, according to LAPD Chief Michel Moore.
“As Chief of Police, I am sorry for this loss,” a visibly upset Moore told reporters during a press conference Tuesday. “I want to express my deepest condolences and sympathy to her family and to everyone who knew her.”
The shooting occurred shortly before a wounded Atkins dashed into the Trader Joe’s and took more than 40 employees and shoppers hostage for hours. Atkins, who had earlier shot his grandmother and a 17-year-old girl with whom he’d been arguing, crashed into the Trader Joe’s as police pursued him, and exchanged gunfire with two LAPD officers as he headed inside, Moore said.
As Corado and others ran outside to see what the commotion was, one of the officers firing at Atkins hit Corado, Moore said. A mortally wounded Corado stumbled back into and collapsed behind the manager’s desk.
At some point later during the standoff, bystanders managed to get Corado outside, where firefighters attempted to revive her, but they were unable to save her, Moore said.
Atkins was shot through the arm during the gunfight outside the store, and was arrested about three hours later after surrendering to police.
He’s being held on $2 million bail, and faces one count of murder, with more charges likely, police said.
The harrowing incident began at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday, when Atkins got into an argument with the teenage girl, whom police described as an acquaintance, and his grandmother, police said. Atkins eventually shot both women, and took off with the girl in his grandma’s car, police said.
Using a security system to track the car, police gave chase, and tried to stop Atkins at about 3 p.m., but the alleged kidnapper floored it, firing at the officers through his back window, according to Moore.
After about 15 minutes of chase, Atkins rammed into a street-light pole outside the Trader Joe’s. Body camera footage shows released Tuesday shows Atkins scampering inside as officers squeeze off multiple shots and bystanders duck back inside the store.
The two officers then appear to run for cover behind a low concrete wall across the parking lot from the Trader Joe’s as Atkins seems to return fire. A volley of gunshots can be heard, as well as a metallic pinging near the officers, prompting obscenities from authorities and calls to take cover.
In comments to the LA Times, a neighbor of Corado, Jesse Palmer, criticized the LAPD for what he described as a reckless shooting.
“How are police deciding to open fire in a packed place, in the afternoon, on a Saturday?” Palmer, 38, asked the Times.
But Sid Heale, a retired LA County Sheriff’s Department commander, said the officers had little choice.
“We try to have a clear field of fire, but obviously the suspect has a substantial, even a decisive, advantage if we don’t return fire,” he said in an interview with the LA Times. “There is no easy answer.”