Grandmother: Alleged Trader Joe's Shooter Shot Me

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The grandmother of a man accused of triggering a gun battle that resulted in a Trader Joe's assistant manager being shot to death by Los Angeles police testified today that the grandson she raised from the age of 7 shot her point blank in the chest that day.

She'd never seen her grandson, Gene Evan Atkins, with a gun and has no idea how he got it, 77-year-old Mary Madison testified in a downtown courtroom. But he had been agitated earlier in the day and the two ``had words'' over he and his girlfriend lazing around Madison's house.

The grandmother's testimony was part of a conditional examination, scheduled over concern that the witness might not be available or able to testify at trial.

Madison also revealed under cross-examination -- and over the objections of Deputy District Attorney Tannaz Mokayef -- that when Atkins was 8 or 9 years-old, she had taken him to see a therapist at a place called Kedren.

``It's where they help kids that have the temper,'' Madison testified. ``He had a real bad temper at times.''

Atkins went to therapy twice a week for two or three months and was prescribed medication, according to Madison, who said she didn't know what the medication was.

She wasn't aware of any other treatment since then and didn't know if Atkins was under the influence of anything on the day of the store shooting. She said he ``was agitated a little ... earlier ... I could tell when he slammed doors and things like that.''

Prosecutors played a video taken from a body-worn camera of one of the officers responding to the shooting, showing Madison lying on the floor of her bedroom with a gunshot wound to her chest.

Madison had just returned home after stopping at a barbecue place for food and was upset when she saw Atkins and his teen girlfriend in his bedroom.

``Because they were just laying around. I was working every day still,'' she said. ``I didn't want her there. She wasn't working, he wasn't working.''

Then seconds later, ``He walked in my bedroom ... that's where he shot me,'' Madison said, telling the court she was shot twice.

Then he asked where her car keys were, she said.

``I didn't want him to shoot me again. I didn't know what he was going to do,'' Madison testified, explaining that she told him the keys were in her purse, though she didn't ordinarily allow him to drive the car.

Her daughter, Rhonda, who also lived in the home in the 1600 block of 32nd Street in South Los Angeles, was on the front porch during the shooting and didn't see anything, according to the grandmother.

Madison underwent multiple surgeries, spent months in rehabilitation and now needs either a wheelchair or a walker to get around, she testified. She said she was unable to climb two steps to enter the witness box in the courtroom and gave testimony from her wheelchair instead.

The hearing had been delayed because Atkins had refused to leave a holding cell and come to court. Earlier in the day he threatened to fire defense attorney Michael Morse because Morse asked to postpone a preliminary hearing to August so that he could review all the discovery materials.

But the 29-year-old defendant sat quietly throughout the testimony, wearing a blue, padded, protective vest. Toward the end of the hearing, he took notes and consulted a few times with his attorney.

Atkins had at one point represented himself and then in February told a judge that he was a prophet ``sent here by Jesus'' and didn't understand anything, prompting that judge to appoint an attorney.

Atkins -- who remains jailed in lieu of $15.1 million bail -- is charged with 51 counts, including murder, attempted murder and false imprisonment of a hostage.

The murder charge against Atkins stems from the July 21 shooting death of Melyda Maricela Corado, who was fatally wounded in front of the store in the 2700 block of Hyperion Avenue.

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore confirmed last year that the bullet that killed Corado was fired by a police officer, not Atkins, who surrendered to SWAT officers after about three hours of negotiations.

Though he did not shoot Corado, Atkins is charged with her killing under the theory that he set off the chain of events that led to the 27-year- old woman's death.

In the hours leading up to the standoff, Atkins is also accused of kidnapping the teen girlfriend and forcing her into his grandmother's car, which he crashed into a light pole in front of Trader Joe's at the end of a police chase and fled inside, while exchanging gunfire with pursuing officers.

Prosecutors say he also shot the girlfriend, although it's not clear when.

``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 toward the entrance of Trader Joe's,'' Moore told reporters.

The police chief said the two officers -- one a six-year veteran, the other with two years on the force -- 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.

Corado 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'' -- said they 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.

At a court hearing last December, Atkins told the judge that he has no criminal record, but has an ``extensive mental health record'' that includes a diagnosis of ``bipolar disorder and a list of other disorders, as well.'' He unsuccessfully tried to plead insanity at that hearing, but Sullivan entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

Relatives of Corado filed a civil lawsuit Nov. 29 against the city of Los Angeles and two LAPD officers, saying they were still seeking answers about the shooting that the city and police department have refused to provide.

Attorney John C. Taylor, representing Corado's father and brother, called the fatal shooting an ``out-of-policy'' shooting in which no tactical plan was established. He said Trader Joe's had no liability in the shooting and that the store ``was as much a victim as Mely Corado.''

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