Suspect in Deadly Standoff at Silver Lake Trader Joe’s Store Due to Appear in Court
A man accused of shooting at police before taking hostages during a deadly standoff at a Silver Lake Trader Joe’s store in July is expected in court Wednesday after making a brief appearance earlier in the day.
Gene Evin Atkins, 28, appeared in Los Angeles County Superior Court after being charged with murder in the death of a store employee who was hit by an officer’s bullet during a police gun battle with Atkins.
But he was expected to return to court later in the day after asking to fire his attorney.
Atkins also is charged with kidnapping and carjacking.
Police have said he shot his 76-year-old grandmother and kidnapped his girlfriend in South L.A. before leading officers on a chase that ended with a crash outside the Trader Joe’s store located along Hyperion Avenue.
Family members later told KTLA the violence erupted after Atkins got into an argument with his grandmother about his girlfriend staying over at their home.
Video released by the Los Angeles Police Department shows Atkins shooting through the back window of the car as officers chase after him. When he crashes just outside the store’s entrance, he keeps shooting and officers stop their vehicle, jump out and start firing in the direction of the store.
Melyda Corado, a 27-year-old assistant manager at Trader Joe’s, was fatally struck in the crossfire. It was later revealed an LAPD officer’s bullet had killed her.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore has defended the decision to use deadly force as an attempt to stop what officers feared could become a mass shooting.
“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 that a lone individual with a handgun can make,” the chief said days after the deadly standoff.
Meanwhile, Corado’s family has accused LAPD of withholding and heavily editing video of the deadly altercation.
The family’s attorneys have slammed the department for requesting toxicology tests be performed on Corado, who was working when the mid-afternoon shootout occurred, and allegedly delaying the release of her autopsy report.
Perhaps most notably, they have criticized LAPD officers for firing toward a store full of people in broad daylight.
“The officers in the pursuit car had no tactical plan, got out of the vehicle — already having made up their minds to fire their weapons,” said John Taylor, one of the family’s attorneys.
“Without assessing the background that confronted them, they shot towards the direction of Trader Joe’s,” he said.
Prosecutors are pursuing a murder charge against Atkins, who faces 30 other counts, by applying what’s known as the “provocative act theory of murder,” CNN reported.
“It holds criminals accountable because they do not need to actually pull the trigger to be guilty of murder,” Shasta County Deputy District Attorney Rachel Donahou once wrote in a newsletter.
Atkins stands accused of causing Corado’s death through the sequence of events set off that day.