The man accused of taking hostages during a deadly standoff with officers at the Silver Lake Trader Joe’s in July pleaded not guilty on Monday, authorities said.
Gene Evin Atkins, 28, faces 51 criminal counts, including murder, in the death of a store employee struck by police gunfire during the July 21 incident.
He was also charged with attempted murder of a peace officer and kidnapping.
In a previous court hearing, L.A. Superior Court Judge Gustavo N. Sztraicher granted Atkins’ request to represent himself. “I would like to go pro per,” Atkins said.
On Monday, Atkins appeared expressionless while listening to the charges filed against him.
Holding a sheaf of lined papers, he told Judge Teresa Sullivan that he was “not competent” at the time of the standoff.
Asked if he was entering a not guilty plea by reason of insanity, Atkins repeated “not competent.”
“I have no criminal record, but I have an extensive mental health record,” he said, adding that he had bipolar disorder.
Sullivan said Atkins was previously advised of the consequences of representing himself, and that he was therefore presumed to know the law.
“The document that I have, while well-written and informative, does not move the court to take action,” the judge said.
According to Los Angeles police, Atkins shot his 76-year-old grandmother and kidnapped his girlfriend in South L.A. before officers started pursuing him the afternoon of July 21. Atkins allegedly shot at officers from his vehicle before slamming into a light post in Silver Lake, where he continued to open fire while running into a Trader Joe’s store on Hyperion Avenue.
LAPD returned fire and struck Melyda Corado, a 27-year-old store manager, officials said.
“It’s every officer’s worst nightmare,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said days after the shootout.
Police managed to detain Atkins hours after the gunfire erupted.
Corado’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in November, seeking details surrounding the standoff.
While it wasn’t Atkins’ bullet that killed the victim, prosecutors alleged that he set off the events that led to her death.
Atkins remained in custody on $15.1 million in bail. He was scheduled to return to court on Feb. 15.