Hearing Set for Man Charged in Deadly Gunbattle Outside Trader Joe's


LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A hearing is set to begin today to determine if a 29-year-old man will have to stand trial on murder and other charges stemming from a chase and gunbattle last year that resulted in the fatal shooting of a Trader Joe's assistant manager by pursuing police officers in Silver Lake and a subsequent standoff inside the store.

Gene Evin Atkins is charged with 51 counts, including the July 21, 2018, slaying of Melyda Maricela Corado, who was fatally wounded in front of the store in the 2700 block of Hyperion Avenue. Along with murder, the charges against Atkins include attempted murder, attempted murder of a peace officer, assault on a peace officer with a semiautomatic firearm, kidnapping, fleeing a pursuing peace officer's motor vehicle while driving recklessly, grand theft of an automobile, discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, shooting at an occupied motor vehicle, false imprisonment of a hostage and mayhem.

Los Angeles Police Department 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.

“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. Moore 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.” Moore 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.

In the hours leading up to the standoff, Atkins is also accused of kidnapping his 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.

Atkins, who was arrested by Los Angeles police after the standoff, is jailed in lieu of $15.1 million bail.

At a hearing in April, Atkins' 77-year-old grandmother, Mary Madison, testified that the grandson she had raised from the age of 7 shot her point blank in the chest that day.

The woman said she had never seen Atkins with a gun and had no idea how he got it, but said he had been agitated earlier in the day and the two “had words” over he and his girlfriend lazing around Madison's house.

At that hearing, Madison testified that she had taken him at about age 8 or 9 to a therapist, adding that “he had a real bad temper at times.”

The defendant's grandmother said 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.

Prosecutors played several minutes of 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.

The officers reassured her that she would be O.K., as one applied pressure to the bleeding wound and another asked her to identify the gunman and details about the car he took when he fled.

Madison testified that she was shot twice, with Atkins subsequently asking where her car keys were.

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

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.

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.

He subsequently told a judge in February that he was a prophet “sent here by Jesus” and didn't understand anything, and an attorney was subsequently appointed on behalf of Atkins, who had been acting as his own lawyer.

Atkins is charged with 51 counts, including murder, attempted murder and false imprisonment of a hostage.

Relatives of Corado filed a 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. 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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