Gunfire had erupted at the Trader Joe’s between police and a gunman, and assistant store manager Melyda Corado was shot. She was leaving the store when she was struck Saturday afternoon, and ran, bleeding, back inside to seek refuge in her office.
Corado reached her desk and collapsed as a hostage situation unfolded in the store, authorities would later say. She was pronounced dead there by paramedics.
The circumstances of her death were one of many unanswered questions after the gun battle and three-hour hostage situation: Who fired the round that killed her?
On Tuesday, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore settled it. One of his officers fired the round that killed Corado, 27, and showed body camera footage that showed the moment the officers fired.
“I am sorry for the loss,” Moore said.
Moore said two officers involved in the shooting were pursuing suspect Gene Evin Atkins through the neighborhoods of Hollywood and Silver Lake.
Atkins, 28, had allegedly shot his grandmother and fired at officers during the chase. He forced his kidnapped and wounded girlfriend into the Toyota Camry belonging to his grandmother, police said.
In dashboard and body-camera footage released Tuesday, the man policed identified as Atkins crashes into a telephone pole next to the store. He appears to fire at least two rounds first, Moore said.
The driver, a male officer, and his passenger, a female officer, open the doors and trade gunfire with Atkins as he runs into the store, about 25 to 30 feet away.
It was in this exchange that the officer’s gunfire struck Corado, Moore said. It is not clear from the video which officer fired the fatal round, but a forensics investigation determined it came from a police weapon, he said.
The body-camera videos show the male officer firing at least five times before sprinting for cover behind a concrete barrier, where another officer is already hunkered down.
“He’s shooting through the window!” someone says. The officer shouts to clear the area. The female officer joins his side in seconds after firing about five rounds from the passenger side.
“Watch out,” the other officer says.
Ping. A round strikes a metal pole behind the officers.
“Get down!” an officer shouts.
The videos end soon after.
Corado was heading outside but was shot while inside the store, authorities said. She is not shown in the videos.
Atkins barricaded himself inside the store after Corado was shot. The store held about 30 to 40 people, Moore said.
Some fled via exits. Others hid. Atkins took some hostage, Moore said, but surrendered after a three-hour hostage situation. He is being held on more than $9 million bail for charges including murder, attempted murder and false imprisonment of hostages, Moore said.
“I know that it’s every officer’s worst nightmare to hurt an innocent bystander during a violent engagement,” Moore told reporters in a news conference at his headquarters. “I spoke with the officers this morning — they’re devastated. They were devastated in the immediate aftermath of this event.”
It was not immediately clear whether the officer involved was placed on administrative leave or if disciplinary action is anticipated, Officer Ray Brown, a department spokesman, told The Washington Post on Tuesday. That decision is probably tied to the ongoing investigation, he said.
Moore pushed back against doubt over the officers’ decision to open fire near a crowded grocery store on a Saturday afternoon.
“I believe it’s what they needed to do in order to defend the people of Los Angeles, defend the people in that store and to defend themselves,” Moore said. “I ask that you place yourself in these two officers’ positions and ask yourself, what would you have done?”