Gene Evin Atkins, who was allegedly taken in by his grandmother as a boy when his father went to prison, was identified as the suspect accused of going on a shooting rampage in Los Angeles that started with the shooting of the grandmother and another woman and ended with a store employee dead at a Trader Joe’s in the Silver Lake area.
The Los Angeles police chief now says a police bullet killed store employee Melyda Corado, however. The chief, though, blamed Atkins for the death, saying his alleged violent actions caused what happened later. “I believe my officer’s actions were taken to defend themselves and in direct response to the deadly threat posed by Atkins,” the chief, Michel R. Moore, said.
Police released the body cam videos from the scene. You can watch them here:
Authorities and inmate records confirm that Gene Atkins has been booked on suspicion of murder. Atkins is 28-years-old. Inmate records say that Atkins was booked into the Los Angeles County Jail. “Custody Status Date: Jul 22, 2018 02:31 AM PDT. Custody Status: In Custody. Book Date: Jul 22, 2018 10:01 AM PDT,” the records for Gene Atkins read. Atkins was licensed to work as a security guard through 2017.
Melyda Corado, a store manager at Trader Joe’s, was the female victim who was shot and killed after the suspect burst into the store, leading to a tense three-hour standoff that involved multiple hostages. On Facebook, Mely Corado, as she was often called, had shared videos relating to March for Our Lives, including a well-known speech by Parkland, Florida student and anti-gun violence activist Emma Gonzalez.
“The destructive and tragic consequences one person can inflict are at the forefront of our minds tonight, as is the valor & dedication of our men & women who strived to protect so many innocent people-Our thoughts, prayers & hearts are with all effected by this senseless incident,” LAPD Chief Michael Moore said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Gene Atkins Is Being Held On a Murder Accusation But an Officer’s Bullet Killed Melyda Corado
The police chief confirmed that a police officer’s bullet killed Melyda Corado, who he defined as an assistant store manager at Trader Joe’s.
“I am sorry to report one of the officer’s rounds struck Miss Corado as she was exiting the market and was in close proximity to Atkins,” the police chief said. “She ran back into the store and collapsed.” He said she was later carried out by others in the store and died of the gunshot wound.
Atkins has been charged with 30 counts, including murder, said the chief, who added, “I am sorry for the loss. This tragic loss not just to the Corado family but to her father, brother, friends, to her work colleagues at Trader Joe’s. This has been a devastating ordeal. On behalf of myself and men and women of this department, I want to my express deepest condolences and sympathy to her family and to everyone who knew her.”
He added: “It is every officer’s worst nightmare to harm an innocent bystander during a violent engagement. I spoke to both of these officers this morning. They’re devastated… that a person died…This is a heartbreaking reminder of the split second decisions officers must make every day.”
He added that Gene Atkins’ “violent actions precipitated” the situation.
No previous cases come up under Atkins’ name and date of birth in Los Angeles County criminal court records. However, according to The Los Angeles Times, Atkins has a previous arrest for suspicion of vandalism from 2008 for which he was not charged, and his grandmother sought a temporary restraining order against him two years later.
Atkins was originally being held on $2 million, but that’s been increased to $9 million.
Gene Evin Atkins was accused of shooting his 76-year-old grandmother, named as Mary Elizabeth Madison, and girlfriend before leading police on a chase that culminated at the Trader Joe’s on the evening of July 21, 2018.
A family member of Madison has started a GoFundMe page for her medical examples. “On July 21st my grandmother was shot several times by my older cousin , we are devastated and our heart goes out to everyone involved , for now we just need all the prayers and support we can get to make sure that my Granny gets the best treatment possible she’s up and alert and being herself to the best of her abilities but we have a long surgical road ahead of us…. ” it reads. “My grandmother has never been hospitalized all of the 26 years of my life and to hear her tell me she wants to go home and knowing she can’t is so heartbreaking.”
There is also a GoFundMe to help the family of Melyda Corado.
The standoff stretched into three hours and led to a frightening situation in which customers and employees jumped out of windows and hid in the store’s freezer. In the end, one employee, Melyda, described as hard-working and kind by those who knew her, lay dead. The last condition update police gave said the grandmother was in stable condition.
“Police called the store’s landline and the suspect answered. One news outlet also reported the suspect used the telephone at one point during the ordeal to call a family member to check on the condition of his grandmother,” reported Los Feliz Ledger.
Melyda, a store employee, died from gunfire, although the circumstances are not completely clear. ABC 7 reported that Corado was shot “possibly in the crossfire between LAPD officers and the suspect.” The Associated Press quoted the police chief as saying, “outside the store, the man exchanged gunfire with police again and that’s when the woman was shot and killed.” AP added: “It was unclear if she died from police gunfire or was killed by the gunman.” According to The Los Angeles Times, the police chief now also says she was shot while exiting the store and it’s not clear whether the bullet came from Atkins or a police officer.
“Our hearts are broken over what happened today,” Trader Joe’s said in a statement. “This has been an incredible trauma, and our thoughts are with our Crew Members and customers. Our focus is on doing whatever we can to support them at this time. We appreciate everything Los Angeles law enforcement did to ensure an end to this ordeal.”
There was also heroism.
One employee working in a back room helped employees to safety:
President Donald Trump tweeted about the incident, “Watching Los Angeles possible hostage situation very closely,” he tweeted. “Active barricaded suspect. L.A.P.D. working Federal Law Enforcement.” However, the tweet is no longer on Trump’s page.
2. The Slain Store Employee Was Remembered for Her Kind Personality & Hardworking Nature
Albert Corado wrote on Twitter that the woman who died was his sister, Melyda Corado. “I’m sad to say she didn’t make it. My baby sister. My world. I appreciate the retweets and the love. Please respect my family’s privacy as we are still coming to terms with this. #TraderJoes #SilverLake,” he wrote. Melyda was also known as Mely Corado. The coroner has also identified her and says she was 27.
Earlier, he had written: “My sister works at the #traderjoes in #silverlake I can’t get a hold of her and I’m not sure if she was able to get out or is one of the hostages. If anyone with any information could help me out it would be much appreciated. I feel helpless and I’m scared for my sister.”
Shortly after the family posted the information, local news sites confirmed that Melyda Corado was the victim who died, and they said she was a store employee.
Tributes began to flow in for Melyda. “Mely Corado was my friend. My heart is broken for her family and for those of us who were lucky to know her. #TraderJoes #SilverLake,” a friend wrote. A woman wrote Albert on Twitter, “I’m at such a loss. I cannot express how truly sorry I am. Your sister was a bright light, funny as hell and also so so kind. Of course, you already know how wonderful she was. All I can say right now is I am so sorry. So unbelievably sorry.”
“Dear Melyda Corado, a light and a laugh to so many of us here. Rest In Peace. Love and strength to family, friends, your co-workers at Trader Joe’s and all the community here grieving and shaken,” wrote one man. A woman wrote on Facebook, “Melyda Corado lost her life today in the Trader Joe’s tragedy in our neighborhood. I fall asleep thinking of her siblings who tweeted asking for help, for information, when they didn’t know what was going on. I saw those tweets in real time. She was the store manager. She probably worked hard for that position. She was loved. Love doesn’t always protect us, but it’s the only thing that can heal us.”
On Facebook, Mely shared videos relating to the March for Our Lives movement and anti-gun violence activism, although she didn’t caption them.
For example, she shared a video called “L.A. Teen’s Powerful Gun Violence Speech” by MoveOn.org. The March 24, 2018 video caption that she shared read, “Edna Chavez tells her personal story of living with gun violence in South L.A. One of many powerful moments at today’s March for our Lives.”
She also shared a CNN video of Emma Gonzalez speaking at March for Our Lives. The video she shared was captioned with a quote of Emma saying, “They say that tougher gun laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS! They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS! They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS!”
Another video Melyda shared was of Chelsea Handler advocating for gun regulations, which Handler said had worked in Australia.
According to The Los Angeles Times, Melyda Corado was the store’s manager. She “was pulled out of the store by authorities and declared dead at the scene,” reported The Times.
Melyda’s brother wrote on Twitter, “She loved all her Tj’s family so much and was so excited to be a mate.” On Facebook, Melyda shared an interest in the movie Black Panther, butter cookies, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and dogs. You can read more about her life here:
3. Gene Atkins Was in a ‘Feud’ With His Grandmother Over His Girlfriend & His Father Was Sent to Prison When He Was a Boy, Reports Allege
Atkins’ cousin, Charlene Egland, told The Los Angeles Times that “Atkins had been involved in a feud with his grandmother over his girlfriend’s presence at the home they shared on East 32nd Street in South L.A.”
The cousin told the Times that Atkins was raised by his grandmother, who “repeatedly cared for him despite prior run-ins with police and sometimes violent arguments that would erupt between the two family members.”
“Whenever he got into something, she’d go to his rescue; that’s why I can’t even believe what he did to her,” Egland alleged to The Times. The cousin also told The Times that Atkins’ mother was a drug addict and his father served a lengthy prison term when Atkins was only 8. Heavy reached a different relative who declined to comment.
The rampage started at 1:30 p.m. on July 21, 2018, the Los Angeles Police Department wrote in a statement. “A shooting occurred in Newton Division,” LAPD wrote. “The suspect then fled the scene. The suspect was located via LoJack and a pursuit ensued at which point the suspect fired multiple rounds at pursuing officers.”
The LA Times reported that the police tracked the suspect’s car using “transmissions from its anti-theft device.” ABC7 said the suspect might have shot his grandmother because she didn’t want his girlfriend in the house.
According to The Associated Press, the suspect shot his grandmother and girlfriend. He then allegedly fled in his grandmother’s Toyota Camry. The grandmother was shot 7 times, according to CNN. She’s in critical condition. The younger woman is in good condition, according to authorities.
The situation escalated to even grimmer levels when, police say, the suspect crashed his vehicle and “an officer involved shooting occurred. At the termination of the pursuit, the suspect fled into the Trader Joe’s. Inside the Trader Joe’s, a female victim was struck by gunfire. She was pronounced dead at scene.”
The suspect was also wounded in the arm after “exchanging gunfire with police,” CNN reported.
According to The Associated Press, Christian Dunlop, a witness outside the store, said he “saw four people run out. One person, an employee, was dragging an injured woman by the hands.”
“She appeared lifeless,” Dunlop said to AP.
4. Gene Atkins Is Accused of Saying He Would Count to Five & Then Kill Hostages If He Didn’t Get to Speak to His ‘Granny’
KCAL9 Employee Lynne Westafer, who was held hostage during the rampage, told CBS Los Angeles that Atkins “asked to speak to his grandmother ‘several’ times.” The hostages were not yet aware that he was already accused of shooting his grandmother, the television station reported.
“He said he would start killing us if he didn’t get to talk to his granny,” Westafer told CBS LA. “And he would start counting down from five — and that was terrifying.”
Once inside the Trader’s Joe’s, the suspect proceeded to take multiple hostages, police said. “He then proceeded to hold multiple victims hostage within the location,” the LAPD wrote. “Through the hard work of multiple LAPD entities, the suspect walked out of the location, and asked that he put handcuffs on himself, and was taken into custody.”
AP reported that the hostages were “bystanders.” Police say there were 40 people inside the store.
“Approximately 40 and 50 others–including children–in the store had hidden in the store’s freezer, in bathrooms and in closets during the tense nearly three-hour standoff,” reported Loz Feliz Ledger.
Earlier during the incident, the police wrote, “SWAT resources are on scene at the #traderjoes in #Silverlake as we work to bring a swift resolution to this incident. Again, this is an active and evolving situation, and we continue to urge the public and media to stay clear of the area.”
Around 7:30 p.m., the LAPD said, “This remains an active investigation, and the area will remain closed as our investigation continues.”
5. A Writer for Jimmy Kimmel Tweeted From the Scene
Devin Field, a writer for the Jimmy Kimmel show, was at the scene when the man ran into the Trader Joe’s, and he tweeted details from the scene. “When last I left a man was nearby the barricade texting with his wife who was inside with hostages. Other people with me were giving her descriptions of their friends and family and she was verifying who was ok. Several people were confirmed as ok,” he wrote.
“To clarify my experience: I was walking in when he crashed into the entrance and got out shooting. I ducked behind the 4 foot retaining wall in the parking lot and three LAPD officers ran over, knelt behind it right next to me and opened fire,” he wrote. “Gunman returned fire and they dropped to the ground. Eventually they asked me to try crawling out but I couldn’t crawl low enough so they stopped me, worried the bullets might go through the concrete if he returned fire. once he was inside they had me crawl out and run.”
He also wrote, “Some people here with family still inside. Gunman took a man’s cell phone and sent him out. Sounds like he moved hostages to the back of the store and asked to talk to a negotiator.”
According to CNN, “Some employees climbed out a back window on a chain ladder.”
This article is being updated as more information is learned about Gene Evin Atkins.