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LAPD Officers In 2018 Trader Joe's Shooting Will Not Be Charged In Employee's Death

Two Los Angeles police officers will not face criminal charges in the 2018 shootout at a Trader Joe's store that injured the armed suspect the officers were pursuing, and resulted in the death of the store's assistant manager.

In a newly released memorandum from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, prosecutors determined the officers were justified in using deadly force because they were trying to protect themselves and the public.

The memorandum also offered more details of the events that led officers to pursue suspect Gene Atkins initially; why officers began to shoot toward a crowded market; and when it became clear to law enforcement that Melyda Corado, 27, the Trader Joe's employee, had been struck in the firefight.

"It is our conclusion that the officers acted in lawful self-defense and defense of others and are not criminally responsible for the shootings of Atkins or Corado," the report said.

Prosecutors noted that even though it was later determined Corado was killed by a single shot from one of the officers, Atkins was ultimately responsible for her death.

"Furthermore, we conclude that Corado was killed due to Atkins' proactive act resulting in the officers' responding to Atkins with deadly force and therefore [Atkins] is criminally responsible for Corado's death," the report said. "We are closing our file and will take no further action in the matter."

Gene Atkins appears in Los Angeles County Superior Court in July 2018. Police say Atkins shot his grandmother, kidnapped his 17-year-old girlfriend and shot at officers when he fled into a Trader Joe's store in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Damian Dovarganes / AP
Gene Atkins appears in Los Angeles County Superior Court in July 2018. Police say Atkins shot his grandmother, kidnapped his 17-year-old girlfriend and shot at officers when he fled into a Trader Joe's store in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.

"This is what LAPD does"

The findings were not a surprise to many, according to the Los Angeles Times. The paper noted that in the days immediately following the July 2018 shootout, both the Police Commission and police Chief Michel Moore ruled the officers did not do anything outside the department's policy.

The Los Angeles Times said that Corado's family has sued the police department, alleging negligence and excessive force.

"This is what LAPD does," Corado's brother Albert Corado told the paper. "They can fire eight shots into a Trader Joe's and kill someone and they think that's just how these things played out."

"It's a tragedy, but unfortunately, that's the cost of LAPD doing business in the city," he added.

The district attorney's memorandum, which became public Tuesday, is dated Nov. 30, the LAist pointed out.

That suggests it was part of a final cluster of cases overseen by the previous district attorney, Jackie Lacey, who lost her bid for reelection in November.

It was also about a week before newly sworn-in District Attorney George Gascón assumed office and promised to implement a slew of criminal justice reforms, including a pledge to stop seeking the death penalty when prosecuting individual cases and stopping most uses of cash bail.

He also vowed to review law enforcement fatal use-of-force cases going back to 2012.

It is unclear if his office plans to review the Corado case.

A pursuit ending in tragedy

According to the memorandum, Officers Sinlen Tse and Sarah Winans began to pursue Atkins, who had earlier shot his grandmother multiple times. She survived.

He fled the scene of that shooting in a Toyota Camry.

The pursuit lasted about 15 minutes and covered nine miles, according to the memorandum, and ended when Atkins crashed into an electrical pole just feet from a Trader Joe'sin the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.

During the pursuit, Atkins opened fire on officers from the vehicle. After the crash, Atkins fired an additional three rounds at officers, the report said, then ran inside the market.

The memorandum said that Tse fired five rounds in Atkins' direction, while Winans fired three.

"Nine seconds passed from the time Atkins crashed the Camry until he entered the Trader Joe's. During this time, Corado ran towards the entrance doors of the Trader Joe's," the memorandum said.

Moments later she ran back into the view of the market's surveillance cameras, followed by Atkins, the report said.

"At some point during these nine seconds, Corado was struck by gunfire," according to the district attorney's report. But it added that surveillance footage did not record Corado being struck nor was the fatal shot recorded by officer-worn body cameras or police vehicle dashboard cameras.

Police were unaware that Corado was injured until after Atkins corralled a number of hostages and used one of their cellphones to contact officers in an attempt to negotiate.

Atkins eventually allowed two hostages to carry Corado outside to police.

Los Angeles Fire Department officials began to administer treatment to Corado, but a short time later she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Subsequent ballistics tests revealed it was one of Tse's rounds that was the fatal shot.

Atkins, who was struck in the arm but survived, is facing 54 criminal charges, according to the report, including murder, attempted murder, kidnapping and assault on an officer with a gun.

You can read the full memorandum below.

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Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.