Hearing Set for Man Charged in Shooting Death of Trader Joe's Employee

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A man who is charged with murder for a gunbattle that resulted in a Trader Joe's assistant manager being shot to death by Los Angeles police, along with a subsequent standoff inside the Silver Lake store where he allegedly took more than a dozen people hostage is due in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom today.

Gene Evin Atkins, 28, is set to be arraigned in connection with the July 21 killing of Melyda Maricela Corado, 27, who was shot to death by Los Angeles police.

He is also facing 50 other counts, including attempted murder of a police officer, attempted murder, assault on a peace officer with a semi- automatic firearm, false imprisonment by violence and kidnapping, second-degree robbery, attempted carjacking, assault with a firearm, mayhem and fleeing a pursuing police officer's vehicle while driving recklessly.

Atkins was arrested the same day upon surrendering to SWAT officers after about three hours of negotiations, authorities said. He has remained behind bars since then.

Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore confirmed July 24 that the bullet that killed Corado was fired by a police officer, not Atkins.

“This is a heartbreaking reminder of the split-second decisions that officers must make every day,” an emotional Moore said during a news conference. “And it is also a sobering reminder of the destruction a lone individual with a handgun can create.”

Even though he did not shoot Corado, Atkins was charged with her killing under the theory that he allegedly set off the chain of events that led to her death.

Atkins was suspected of shooting his 76-year-old grandmother and his 17-year-old girlfriend in South Los Angeles, kidnapping the teen and crashing a car into a light pole in front of the Trader Joe's market in the 2700 block of Hyperion Avenue at the end of a police chase and fleeing inside, allegedly while exchanging gunfire with pursuing officers.

“As Atkins exited his vehicle, witnesses reported they observed Atkins shoot at the officers. The officers exited their vehicle and returned fire as Atkins ran towards the entrance of Trader Joe's,” Moore told reporters.

The police chief said the two officers -- one a six-year veteran, the other a two-year veteran -- fired a total of eight shots in return. One of them struck Atkins in the left arm, but he continued running inside. Another struck Corado, traveling through her arm and into her body, Moore said. The woman managed to stumble back inside the store after being shot, collapsing behind the manager's station.

She was carried out of the business by others in the store, but paramedics were unable to save her.

Moore -- who described the officers as being “devastated” and extended his condolences to the victim's family -- said he believes the officers did “what they needed to do in order to defend the people of Los Angeles and defend the people in that store and defend themselves.”

The police chief said Atkins fired additional rounds at police from inside the store, but officers did not return fire.

Several store employees and customers were able to escape from the store, while others were released by Atkins at various times before he surrendered, according to the police chief.

Atkins could face a potential life prison sentence if convicted as charged, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Relatives of Corado's family filed claims for damages last month against the Los Angeles Police Department. The claims -- precursors to a lawsuit -- allege civil rights violations, battery, excessive force, negligence, infliction of emotional distress, failure to adequately train officers and conspiracy to cover up wrongful misconduct.

Photo: Getty Images

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