LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The family of a woman who was killed as a result of a police gunfight with a suspect outside the Trader Joe's store in Silver Lake where she worked said today they want to meet with new Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon and ask him to re-evaluate whether the officers acted lawfully.
Melyda “Mely'' Corado's father, Albert Corado, urged the county's top prosecutor to “please step up to the plate'' to take a new look at the prosecution's assessment -- dated Nov. 30 while former District Attorney Jackie Lacey was still in office -- that Officers Sinlen Tse and Sarah Winans were “justified in using deadly force in an attempt to stop'' the suspect, Gene Evin Atkins, who was shot in the left elbow as he ran from the car into the market on July 21, 2018.
“The fact that Corado was struck accidentally by Tse's gunfire is tragic, however, it does not negate the lawfulness of the officers' actions in using deadly force to stop a dangerous fleeing felon,'' according to the memorandum released Tuesday by the District Attorney's Office, just over a week after Gascon was sworn into office.
The woman's brother called the decision by the District Attorney's Office a “a parting gift from Jackie Lacey -- the last thing before she left office.''
Albert Corado Jr. noted that Gascon “promised radical change'' while campaigning for the post and said that he hopes the district attorney will agree to meet with the family. He said that he is “holding on to a bit of hope'' that there may be a different result if the District Attorney's Office re-opens the investigation, but noted that Gascon -- a former LAPD assistant chief -- “was a cop, and cops protect cops.''
“Don't be a coward,'' he said.
District Attorney's Office spokesman Greg Risling said Gascon “plans to establish a review process for families whose loved ones were killed by law enforcement. The evidence in this case has not yet been reviewed by the new administration.''
One of the family's attorneys, John Taylor, said he was not surprised by the conclusion from the DA's office under Lacey's administration, but noted that the new district attorney has pledged to do things differently.
Taylor urged Gascon to “step up and do the right thing,'' and complained that the family didn't get any advance notification about the District Attorney's report, which was released Tuesday, just over a week after Gascon was sworn into office.
The attorney said lawyers for the city have dragged their heels in turning over information to the woman's family, even though the civil lawsuit filed by the family is currently six to seven months away from going to trial.
In the report detailing why no charges were being filed against either of the officers, prosecutors concluded that “Corado was killed due to Atkins' provocative act resulting in the officers' responding to Atkins' use of deadly force and therefore Atkins is criminally responsible for Corado's death.''
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 assistant store manager's death, in which he allegedly shot his 76-year-old grandmother and injured his 17-year-old girlfriend in South Los Angeles, then took his grandmother's car and led police on a wild chase in which he tried to carjack a white Jeep Wrangler at gunpoint at a gas station.
He allegedly fired shots at the two officers during the chase, and again when he got out of the car following a crash and fled into the store, holding customers and employees at gunpoint inside before surrendering to a SWAT team after about three hours of negotiations following the tense standoff.
Atkins, now 30, was ordered in September 2019 to stand trial on 51 counts, including murder, 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.
In February, Superior Court Judge Lisa B. Lench ordered a court-appointed psychiatrist to examine Atkins after his attorney questioned his client's mental competence to stand trial. The criminal case against Atkins was suspended, and he is due back in court Dec. 23.
Atkins allegedly committed “numerous dangerous traffic violations in an attempt to evade the police,'' tried to carjack a vehicle, nearly struck a pedestrian crossing the street and shot at the pursuing officers on two separate occasions. He failed to surrender even after losing a tire on the vehicle and crashing, prosecutors noted in the memorandum.
“After the crash, Atkins immediately exited the Camry and fired his handgun three times at Tse and Winans as he ran into the Trader Joe's,'' according to the memorandum. “Tse and Winans returned fire in an attempt to stop Atkins from trying to injure or kill them or civilians in the Trader Joe's. Atkins showed no consideration for the lives of others and it was reasonable and lawful for Tse and Winans to use deadly force to protect themselves and the public.''
The District Attorney's Office noted that “no bystanders were visible'' behind Atkins or in the line of fire when the officers fired at the suspect, with the evidence suggesting that Corado was “accidentally struck by gunfire when she ran toward the front doors'' of the store after the vehicle crash.
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