Attorneys for the family of a woman who was killed by a police officer’s bullet during a shootout and hostage standoff at a Trader Joe’s in Silver Lake called on the Los Angeles Police Department to release more video of the incident and criticized the officers for firing their guns into a crowded store.
Melyda Corado, a 27-year-old store manager, came out of the store as a man who had led the officers on a vehicle pursuit exchanged gunfire with them.
The attorneys’ statements were a reaction to the LAPD’s release on Tuesday of 911 calls, as well as videos of the pursuit and negotiations with the gunman that provide a fuller picture of the dramatic events that unfolded July 21 at a store that is a popular gathering place for locals.
The department had released some dashboard and body camera videos of the pursuit and shootout within days of the incident, with Chief Michel Moore announcing that Corado had been hit by an officer’s bullet.
At a news conference Tuesday, Corado family attorneys called the latest video release a “slickly produced public relations piece” designed to shine a favorable light on the officers who fired their guns. The department has refused to give them the raw video of the shooting and the events leading up to it, they said.
One of the attorneys, John C. Taylor, said the shooting violated department policy because the officers had “no tactical plan” and shot when there were people on the sidewalk and in the store.
“They got out of the vehicle already having made up their minds to fire their weapons,” Taylor said. “Without assessing the background, they shot towards the direction of the Trader Joe’s.”
The family needs to see all the evidence before deciding whether to file a lawsuit, Taylor said.
The second batch of audio and video was released Tuesday as part of a new LAPD policy requiring recordings to be made public within 45 days of shootings by police officers. It does not contain new footage and does not shed further light on how Corado died.
Like other videos released under the new policy, the Trader Joe’s video was edited and narrated by department officials and doesn’t contain all of the recordings related to the incident.
In a written statement, LAPD spokesman Josh Rubenstein said that the department “demonstrated its commitment to transparency” by releasing some video within days of the shooting.
The release of additional video was “an effort to provide more context surrounding what happened on July 21, 2018,” Rubenstein said. However, he said, “there is both a criminal and administrative investigation that precludes us from providing any more video evidence at this time.”
Investigators said the suspect, Gene Evin Atkins, ended up at the Trader Joe’s after shooting his grandmother several times at their South Los Angeles home. He is accused of forcing a young woman into his grandmother's car and driving with her to Hollywood, Cmdr. Alan Hamilton, who leads the LAPD's Force Investigations Division, said in the video released Tuesday.
In a 911 call about 1:30 p.m., a woman said to the dispatcher: “The front house in front of me, I think it’s my aunt’s grandson just shot her.”
She described the car used by the suspect to leave the scene — a dark blue 2017 Toyota Camry, heading west on East 32nd Street.
Another 911 caller said she heard multiple gunshots and screams.
“There’s a guy who has a little girl. She has blood everywhere,” the caller said before reciting the Camry’s license plate number.
“I seen him get out the house carrying a lady with blood,” she added.
Police used a vehicle anti-theft system to track the Camry to Hollywood, Hamilton said.
Tuesday’s video shows a police car pursuing the suspect on Vine Street near Hollywood Boulevard, passing the Capitol Records building.
At one point, the driver pulled into a gas station, where Hamilton said he attempted to carjack a customer. As the driver headed toward Silver Lake, the right front tire fell off, but he continued fleeing at high speeds.
The video then segues to previously released video of two police officers, identified by the LAPD as Sinlen Tse and Sarah Winans, pursuing the Camry on Rowena Avenue in Silver Lake. It includes a slow-motion replay of shots being fired through the Camry’s back window.
"Shots fired!" Tse shouted to his partner as he swerved into oncoming lanes.
"All right, partner, I got my gun out,” Winans said after calling on the radio for help.
"Do not, do not shoot," Tse told her. "Get distance. We are getting distance."
Forty-five seconds later, the Camry veered into a utility pole in front of Trader Joe’s. The driver bolted for the entrance, shooting wildly from his hip, and the officers returned fire.
Corado is not visible in the video. According to Moore, an officer’s bullet passed through her arm before entering her body. Another bullet hit the suspect in the arm, but he made it into the store, Moore said.
After the initial exchange of gunfire, the video shows the officers taking cover behind a low wall. The gunman shot at them three more times from inside the store. One round landed with a loud ping.
"Get your head down," an officer yelled.
Inside the store, the drama continued, with the gunman holding a group of shoppers and employees hostage for three hours. Several hostages tried to help Corado and carried her out of the store, but she was pronounced dead in an ambulance, Hamilton said.
The woman with Atkins during the police pursuit was treated for a gunshot wound to the head and taken to the hospital.
Tuesday’s release contains an audio recording of a police officer speaking to the gunman by phone as the standoff neared an end.
“OK, OK, that works for me,” the officer said. “Just OK, just do me a favor, just hang tight. I’m gonna … I’m gonna hang up right for you for one second. I’ll call you right back, OK?”
The officer then told colleagues to provide the gunman with handcuffs.
“He says if you guys would throw a set of handcuffs in, he’ll have somebody handcuff him,” the officer said.
Atkins faces 51 felony counts, including murder, kidnapping, premeditated attempted murder and attempted murder of a peace officer.
Though Atkins, 28, did not fire the round that killed Corado, prosecutors charged him under the “provocative act murder” doctrine because they say he set off the events that led to her death.
Moore has said that he will wait until the investigation is completed before determining what consequences, if any, the officers involved in the gun battle will face internally. But on its face, he said, their decision to shoot at Atkins appeared justified.
Investigators still have additional body camera recordings to analyze and many witnesses to interview, Rubenstein said on the video released Tuesday.
Corado’s father, Albert Corado Sr., said that working at Trader Joe’s was “a dream come true” for his daughter.
”We have many questions about how Mely died, but we don’t have any answers,” Corado told reporters Tuesday. “We are here to ask the Los Angeles Police Department to turn over all evidence so we can move on with our lives.”