The bullet that killed a Trader Joe’s store manager in an exchange of gunfire following a pursuit crash Saturday was fired by a Los Angeles Police Department officer, police said Tuesday morning.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore made what he called a “heart-breaking” announcement during a news conference about the investigation into the deadly standoff at a busy Trader Joe’s store in Silver Lake that followed a pursuit crash Saturday.
Moore said the round was fired as the gunman ran into the store and opened fire on police. After the crash, people inside store approached the front windows, Moore said.
That’s when 27-year-old Melyda Corado was accidentally struck by LAPD gunfire as she tried to leave the building, he said. She then went back inside the store and collapsed, police said.
“Those officers’ actions to stop him, the split-second decisions they had to make, I recognize how they will forever go through their lives debating whether that was what they had to do,” Moore said Tuesday. “I believe it’s what they needed to do in order to defend… the people in that store and to defend themselves.
“It is unimaginable, the pain of the Corado family. We share that pain.”
The officers fired a total of eight rounds, Moore added.
The store remained closed Tuesday, but mourners continued to leave flowers and other items at a memorial outside the building in memory of Corado.
The news conference comes as criminal charges are expected against the suspect, identified as 28-year-old Gene Evin Atkins. He has been arrested on suspicion of murder and is being held in lieu of $2 million bail.
Atkins allegedly shot his grandmother and wounded another woman before he crashed his car and ran into the supermarket northeast of downtown Los Angeles, where he held dozens of people hostage in a tense standoff with scores of heavily armed officers outside. Video shown at the Tuesday news conference showed video of the pursuit and exchange of gunfire from LAPD body-worn cameras.
Atkins fired at officers from outside and inside the store, Moore said.
No hostages were seriously hurt before the man handcuffed himself and surrendered about three hours after the crash.
Atkins’ grandmother was in critical condition on Sunday, police said. She was shot seven times at a South Los Angeles home and another woman, who was allegedly forced into a car before the pursuit, suffered a graze wound from a bullet before the crash.
Officers tracked the car using the Lo-Jack stolen-vehicle tracking system and tried to stop the man in Hollywood, but he refused to pull over, police said. He then allegedly fired at officers through the car’s rear window.
Customers in the store and others in the parking lot sought cover as bullets shattered the store’s glass doors. Some people in the store climbed out widows. Other barricaded themselves in rooms.
Fire officials said six people, ranging in age from 12 to 81, were taken to the hospital. None had been shot, and all were in fair condition.