LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The man who killed the manager of a Trader Joe's in Silverlake, and held a store full of terrified customers and employees hostage, was named today by Los Angeles police as Gene Evin Atkins, 28.
Family members had told reporters the identity of the man Saturday, but most news agencies waited to confirm it with police.
Officer Drake Madison of the LAPD's Media Relations Section released it today. Atkins remained hospitalized today, under guard, and no court appearance has been scheduled. Melyda Corado, 27, manager of the Silverlake Trader Joe's, was identified as by her brother as the woman who was killed.
The brother, Albert Corado, first Tweeted during the incident that his sister worked at the Trader Joe's and that the family could not contact her.
But he later mourned her death online. "I'm sad to say she didn't make it," he said. "My baby sister. My world." The violent episode may have started Friday, when his cousin spotted Atkins sleeping with a gun under his pillow at his grandmother's house, on 32nd Street near Long Beach Avenue, the cousin told City News Service.
After shooting his grandmother and his girlfriend at about 1:30 Saturday afternoon, Atkins forced his wounded girlfriend into his grandsmother's car and sped across the Midcity of Los Angeles. Police used a LoJack system and traced the vehicle to the Hollywood area and gave chase, leading to Silver Lake, where the suspect crashed the Toyota into a power pole at 3:30 p.m. in front of the Trader Joe's supermarket in the 2700 block of Hyperion Avenue.
Atkins emerged with a handgun, shooting at police at least twice, witnesses said. Inside the store, Corado was hit by gunfire, but it was not immediately clear whether the suspect shot the woman, or if she was killed in the crossfire.
Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore said the circumstances of the woman's death were still unclear. It was not immediately known where the woman was when she was shot. Employees and customers inside scrambled for cover, they said later. Some were seen escaping through a window toward the rear of the business and crawling down a ladder to safety. Police were seen carrying several children away from the building.
Moore later said about 40 people were believed to be in the store when the suspect entered. A short time later, a woman was seen being dragged away from the store's entryway and then being treated by paramedics. Paramedics tried to revive the woman, now identified as Corado, but she was pronounced dead. The suspect's girlfriend was taken to a hospital in fair condition. Fire officials described her as a 20-year-old woman.
Police amassed outside the store, and at 5:30 p.m., at least three people who appeared to be customers came out of the store with their hands in the air -- apparently hostages who were released or shoppers who had managed to elude the gunman.
As the standoff unfolded, the LAPD went on a citywide tactical alert, keeping all available officers on duty beyond their shifts to ensure enough personnel were available to respond to the barricade situation. The suspect ultimately surrendered at 6:30 p.m., walking out of the store with a group of hostages. He held his hands in the air and quickly dropped to his knees as SWAT officers surrounded him and took him into custody. The man was treated for a gunshot injury to his left arm.
Margaret Stewart of the Los Angeles Fire Department said paramedics treated 10 people at the scene of the Trader Joe's, including the suspect, his girlfriend and the woman who died. A 12-year-old boy, a 41-year-old woman, a 70- year-old woman and an 81-year-old woman were all hospitalized with minor injuries and listed in fair condition, she said.
Three other people were evaluated, but declined to be taken to hospitals. After it ended, LAPD Chief Michael Moore said "the destructive and tragic consequences one person can inflict are at the forefront of our minds tonight, as is the valor and dedication of our men and women who strived to protect so many innocent people," Moore said. "Our thoughts, prayers and hearts are with all affected by this senseless incident."
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti added his condolences as well. "Our hearts break for the victim killed at the #SilverLake #TraderJoes and their loved ones," Garcetti posted on Twitter. Officials with Trader Joe's issued a statement late Saturday praising police and vowing to help its employees heal. "Our hearts are broken over what happened today," the statement said.
"This has been an incredible trauma, and our thoughts are with our Crew Members and customers. Our focus is on doing whatever we can to support them at this time. We appreciate everything Los Angeles law enforcement did to ensure an end to this ordeal."
Officers said they are still processing the scene today and that Hyperion Avenue between Griffith Park Boulevard and Ettrick Street would remain closed until at least noon.
The grandmother was not publicly named. She was initially taken to a hospital in grave condition, and after surgery was upgraded to critical condition, the police chief said. In the predawn hours today, the grandmother's car -- a 2015 four-door Toyota Camry sedan -- was towed away for evidence. Hyperion Avenue remained closed.