A 28-year-old man identified by police as Gene Evin Atkins faces a possible murder charge and $2 million bail on Sunday after he was arrested during a tense hostage standoff at a Trader Joe’s supermarket in the normally quiet Los Angeles, California, neighborhood of Silver Lake on Saturday afternoon, The Los Angeles Times reported.
A reporter for the Los Angeles radio station KNX, Cooper Rummell, also said that the LAPD confirmed that Atkins is the suspect in the horrifying incident that claimed the life of a manager at the supermarket, Melyda “Mely” Corado, who was 27-years-old, as The Inquisitr reported earlier. According to a report by The San Bernardino Sun newspaper on Sunday morning, police are still uncertain as to the exact circumstances of Corado’s shooting.
A report by Los Angeles television news station KABC said that Corado may have been shot in a crossfire as police and the suspect exchanged gunfire, after Atkins crashed a Toyota Camry into a light pole outside the supermarket and escaped on foot inside the Trader Joe’s, where he held an estimated 40 people hostage at gunpoint, according to the multiple media reports.
Corado was pronounced dead at the scene. Six others ranging in age from 12- to 81-years-old were hospitalized, but did not have life-threatening injuries, according to a CNN report on the hostage standoff that was broadcast live across the country on Saturday.
The deadly incident reportedly began when Atkins became involved in a family argument and shot his 78-year-old grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Madison, seven times, according to an account by The Associated Press. He then shot and wounded a second woman, forced her into the Camry, owned by Madison, and drove away. Atkins had been raised by Madison since the age of eight, after his father was sentenced to a lengthy prison term and his mother was debilitated by drug addiction, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Police tracked the vehicle using a built-in anti-theft system, locating the Camry in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles — just west of the Silver Lake neighborhood where the chase came to a violent conclusion, according to multiple accounts, including one by The Associated Press.
According to the Sun report, a woman identified as a cousin of Atkins, 28-year-old Charlene Egland, said that she did not know what set off the family dispute that led to Atkins’ rampage. However, the grandmother had made it clear that she did not want Atkins’ girlfriend in her home, Egland said. The Times also reported one arrest — for vandalism in 2008 — but no criminal record for Atkins. He was not charged in the vandalism arrest, according to The Times. Madison sought a restraining order against him in 2008, but later took him back into her home, the paper reported.
Egland said that Madison and Atkins had an ongoing dispute over allowing his girlfriend in the house. After Madison asked Atkins to turn down a television set on Saturday, “he went in his room and grabbed a gun and shot her,” Egland said, adding that the 78-year-old victim had survived the shooting and was “holding her own.” Authorities listed her in critical condition, according to an AP report.
The standoff inside the Silver Lake Trader Joe’s dragged on for approximately three-and-a-half hours until Atkins finally surrendered without further incident at about 6:30 p.m. Pacific Time. He is now being held in Los Angeles County jail. A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department document lists Atkins as being born on January 12, 1990. He is listed as six feet tall and weighing 220 pounds.
During the standoff on Saturday, an eyewitness interviewed by CNN described the suspect as “a buff, sexy, black guy with dreads.”
“Our hearts are broken over what happened today,” The Trader Joe’s company said in a statement reported by KABC. “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.”
The company said that the Silver Lake location where the tragic incident took place will remain closed until further notice.