LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles Police officer’s bullet fatally struck a Trader Joe’s employee Saturday during a shootout with a man who led police on a pursuit and fired at officers as he ran into the grocery store, the LAPD police chief revealed Tuesday.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore played dashcam video footage from a police cruiser and body cameras worn by officers who chased the suspect Gene Atkins, 28, on Saturday and exchanged gunfire with him after he crashed his car into a light pole.
The video shows a man running from the crashed vehicle in front of a Trader Joe’s grocery store. Gunfire erupted and officers shot at Atkins.
Police say before the pursuit Atkins shot his grandmother and a 17-year-old woman, whom he kidnapped and took with him on the pursuit.
Moore said officers fired eight rounds at Atkins and one struck 27-year-old Melyda Corado, a Trader Joe’s manager. Corado was hit in the arm and the bullet moved into her body, killing her.
“They had to make a split-second decision,” Moore said. “I’m here to say that is the worst, worst decision that any officer ever wishes to have to make.”
“This has been a devastating ordeal,” he added.
Atkins fired multiple rounds at officers, including during the pursuit as he shot out the back window of his car and three times from inside the grocery store, Moore said.
Officers rescued the 17-year-old woman who was in the car with Atkins during the pursuit, who was shot in the head.
The incident started earlier on Saturday in South Los Angeles, when Atkins shot his grandmother and kidnapped the woman, identified by some news outlets as his girlfriend. Both women are expected to survive.
The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office said Atkins has been charged with murder in the death of Corado. If convicted, Atkins faces life in prison.
Prosecutors say they have charged Atkins based on a provocative act theory of murder. In a statement, the DA’s office said Atkin’s “criminal acts set into motion a situation where the natural and probable consequences of the defendant’s criminal acts were dangerous to human life and a third party, in response to those acts, responded with deadly force.”
In total, Atkins faces 31 counts stemming from Saturday’s incident. The charges he faces include murder, kidnapping, fleeing a pursuing peace officer’s motor vehicle while driving recklessly, grand theft auto, driving or taking a vehicle without consent, discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, shooting at an occupied motor vehicle and assault with a firearm.
He also faces two counts of attempted, willful, deliberate and premeditated attempted murder, four counts of attempted murder of a peace officer, four counts of assault on a peace officer with a semiautomatic firearm and 13 counts of false imprisonment of a hostage.
Atkins did not enter a plea when he appeared before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gustavo Sztraicher on Tuesday afternoon. He will be arraigned Aug. 14, and his bail was set at $18.7 million.
Police did not release the names of the officers involved in the shooting. He said one officer has been with the LAPD for two years and the other for six years.