The Los Angeles Police Department said officers shot and killed a woman during a hostage situation at Trader Joe’s over the weekend in Silver Lake, California.
Police Chief Michel Moore told reporters Tuesday 27-year-old Melyda Corado died inside the grocery store Saturday after officers struck her during a shoot-out with gunman Gene Atkins, 28.
“I know it’s every officer’s worst nightmare to harm an innocent bystander during a violent engagement,” Moore said. “Both officers are devastated … that a person died in their efforts to stop Atkins. This is a heartbreaking reminder of the split second decisions officers must make everyday.”
Moore laid the ultimate blame on Atkins, recounting the shooting spree and car chase that led him to Trader Joe’s that afternoon. “Gene Atkins’s violent actions precipitated this incident when he shot his grandmother and young acquaintance during an argument,” he said. “His violent behavior escalated as he shot at pursuing officers as they attempted to stop him and rescue the young woman inside his vehicle.”
After kidnapping the teen, Atkins crashed his grandmother’s stolen Toyota Camry into a light post, Moore said, and fled on foot into the nearby grocery store as he fired shots at officers following behind. Corado, an assistant manager, was struck when she went to the front of the store to investigate the commotion unfolding outside.
“As Chief of Police, I am sorry for the loss, this tragic loss,” Moore said. “On behalf of myself and the men and women of this department, I want to express my deepest condolences and sympathy to her family and to everyone that knew her.”
Atkins was arraigned Tuesday on more than 30 counts, including murder, attempted murder, false imprisonment and felony evading. Bail is set at over $9 million, Moore said.
Although the investigation continues, Moore said he believes his officers acted appropriately in defense of themselves and others at the grocery store. “I recognize how they will forever go through their mind, debating whether that was what they had to do. But as chief of police, it’s what I believe they needed to do,” he said.