Los Angeles

Family of Trader Joe's Hostage Crisis Victim Criticizes Latest Los Angeles Police Department Video

Footage of the July shooting shows officers chasing suspect Gene Atkins after they say he shot his grandmother and kidnapped his girlfriend.

What to Know

  • A man identified as Gene Atkins faces a slew of charges in the July 21 shooting and hostage crisis at Trader Joe's in Silver Lake.
  • He could face life in state prison.
  • Atkins faces a slew of charges including murder for the killing of Melyda Corado, attempted murder, kidnapping, and false imprisonment.

Shots can be seen blasting out the rear windshield of a Toyota Camry at pursuing officers moments before the accused gunman allegedly held shoppers hostage for hours at a Silver Lake Trader Joe's in July, video released Tuesday by the Los Angeles Police Department shows.

Video, audio and radio traffic released on the LAPD's YouTube channel fill in more details about the July 21 incident that left a Trader Joe's manager dead and terrorized a quiet community.

The incident was sparked after Gene Atkins, 28, allegedly shot his grandmother and his girlfriend, stole his grandmother's car, and led police on a short pursuit before crashing at a Trader Joe's parking lot.

A neighbor across the street from the South Los Angeles neighborhood where the incident was sparked called 911 reporting multiple shots being fired.

"Yeah, somebody's screaming and calling for help," the caller tells a dispatcher, according to the LAPD video. "OK, so there's a guy who has a little girl and she has blood everywhere."

Police said they found the car through a LoJack Vehicle Recovery System and got into a police pursuit.

During the chase, the suspect allegedly fired at officers through the Camry's rear window. Police video shows shots breaking through the windshield as officers react by calling in shots fired, officer needs help.

The pursuit ended when Atkins crashed into a power pole outside the Trader Joe's.

He can be seen in the video getting out of the car, while firing his gun at police. Police fire back. A bullet could be heard ricocheting off a metal pole near where an officer had taken cover. A police bullet hit Atkins in the arm.

A second police bullet fatally struck the store manager, Melyda Corado, 27.

Atkins ran inside the Trader Joe's while continuing to fire at the officers. Then he allegedly took several hostages inside, police said.

During the standoff, officers rescued the girl who was in the car with Atkins. She was treated for a gunshot wound to her head and was taken to a hospital. Some of the hostages carried the mortally wounded Corado out of the market to officers outside who carried her to an ambulance where she died, police said.

Eventually, Atkins told his hostages that they could be released.

"He says if you guys could would throw a set of handcuffs in, he'll have somebody handcuff him," a police negotiator says in the video.

Police did as the suspect asked and Atkins surrendered to police at 6:30 p.m.

A lawyer for the Corado family criticized the LAPD about the release, demanding the police release all video in this incident.

"Rather than act in a spirit of transparency, (police) have turned it into a public relations effort to shine the most favorable light on the actions of the officers that were involved in this shooting," said attorney John Taylor at a news conference. "They want to control the narrative."

Despite multiple requests, Taylor said the department has refused to release unedited car, helicopter and officer body-camera footage of the shooting.

Corado's father, Albert Corado, spoke through tears about his daughter at the news conference, saying she "was a very special person who loved her family and friends."

"We are devastated by her loss," he said. "We have many questions about how Mely died but we don't have any answers."

Department spokesman Josh Rubenstein released a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying, "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.

He said the department has been transparent, saying it released footage 48 hours after the incident.

"Today's critical incident community briefing is an effort to provide more context surrounding what happened on July 21st, 2018 however, there is both a criminal and administrative investigation that precludes us from providing any more video evidence at this time," he said.

Atkins has been charged with murder in Corado's death as well as kidnapping and carjacking. His arraignment is set for Sept. 19. It's unclear whether he has an attorney.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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