SILVER LAKE (CBSLA) — The LAPD on Sunday morning identified the suspect apprehended Saturday following an hours-long hostage situation at a Trader Joe’s in Silver Lake that left one woman dead.
Gene Evin Atkins, 28, has been booked for murder. His bail was set at $2 million.
Atkins is accused of shooting his grandmother and his girlfriend in South L.A. before leading police on a pursuit in Silver Lake, ultimately crashing into a pole outside the Trader Joe’s.
The L.A. County Coroner has identified the victim as 27-year-old Melyda “Mely” Corado, a store manager at Trader Joe’s.
It is not clear if Corado was shot by Atkins or by police in the crossfire.
The store’s security guard was overcome with emotion as he lamented not working Saturday.
“It’s like I lost one of my family,” said Raymond Shahnazarian as he wept. “Since yesterday,[…] I couldn’t drive to come here to see this.
Resident’s of one of L.A. oldest enclaves came together Sunday, leaving flowers and cards for Corado at a makeshift memorial outside the store.
“I just can’t imagine what it’s — you know, I’m a mother and I have a child near her age. I can’t imagine if he went to work one day and then just this could happen,” Pam Burian told CBS2, appearing hold back her tears.
Corado was remembered as a kind person who liked to make people laugh.
Her brother Albert Corado mourned her passing via Twitter.
Atkins’ 76-year-old grandmother and his girlfriend, 20, were taken to local hospitals. His grandmother was listed in grave condition and upgraded to critical after undergoing surgery. His girlfriend was listed in fair condition.
Atkins’ cousin told CBS2 their grandmother was attempting to speak at the hospital, trying to find out what happened to her grandson, whom she raised.
“That was her baby,” said Deshon Hayward. “He can’t be in his right mind.[…] What’s going on? What made you do this?”
It is speculated Atkins shot his mother over his girlfriend.
“My grandma’s 76, she’s old-school. She don’t do all that, you know, ‘You coming to my house, and your girlfriend coming over.’ No,” said Hayward.
Some of the people caught in the melee inside and outside the store described the scene.
“Naturally, I’m a human being. I felt terror,” said 91-year-old Don Kohles. He was in the store’s parking lot when the incident began.
A CBS2 producer was one of the dozens of people who were in the store when the standoff began.
“I just had this, like, resolve that came over me, that I am not gonna die today, and that I’m gonna run,” Lynne Westafer said. She was one of the last hostages released, but not before living some moments of true terror.
“He said he was gonna kills us.[…] The really scary part was when he noticed an officer with a rifle on the roof of a cheese store next door,” recalled Westafer. “Five! Four! Three! Two![…] It escalated to the point where he started counting down, that he was gonna shoot people.”
Westafer said an employee she knew simply as “Victor” stepped up to wrangle the hostages. “Victor turned around and said, ‘It’s gonna be OK, and I’m gonna be the last one out of here.’ And I thought, ‘You’re like 23 years old! How do you do that? It was amazing!”
Westafer was released around 5:30 p.m., about an hour before the standoff ended.
Trader Joe’s released the following statement Sunday:
“To Our Valued Customers,
Yesterday marks the saddest day in Trader Joe’s history as we mourn the loss of one of our own. Our thoughts are with her family, and our Crew Members and customers who experienced this terrifying and unimaginable ordeal.
Our Silverlake store will remain closed until further notice to give our Crew Members time to process yesterday’s events. We will continue to do whatever we can to support them.
Thank you for your understanding and outpouring of support.”
A GoFundMe campaign was launched for Corado.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)