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Arraignment postponed for suspect in Trader Joe's shootout after prosecutors file additional charges

Arraignment postponed for suspect in Trader Joe's shootout after prosecutors file additional charges
Gene Evin Atkins, pictured here at an earlier hearing, appeared in court Thursday for a hearing where prosecutors announced additional charges against him. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Prosecutors on Thursday announced additional felony charges against a man accused of holding customers hostage inside a Trader Joe’s market last month and engaging in a gun battle with Los Angeles police officers — one of whom mistakenly shot and killed a store manager.

Gene Evin Atkins, who appeared in a downtown courtroom dressed in blue jail scrubs for a hearing in his murder case, stared ahead as a prosecutor announced 20 new criminal counts against him, bringing the total to 51. The new counts include false imprisonment of a hostage, mayhem and assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury. His bail, which had been set at $18.7 million, was increased to $23 million.

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A judge postponed Atkins’ arraignment until Sept. 19, allowing the defense more time to review evidence.

On July 21, investigators said, Atkins shot his grandmother, kidnapped his girlfriend and fired a gun at police officers from his car during a frenzied chase from Hollywood to Silver Lake, where he rammed into a light post on Hyperion Avenue.

As he sprinted toward the grocery store’s entrance, Atkins fired from his hip and police returned a barrage of bullets, according to dashboard video footage released by the Los Angeles Police Department a few days after the shooting. During the confrontation, store manager Melyda Maricela Corado, 27, whom customers remembered for her constant smile and eagerness to help, was killed.

At a news conference, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore announced that a bullet from an officer’s gun had killed Corado and offered condolences to her family.

“It’s every officer’s worst nightmare,” Moore said.

While Atkins, 28, did not fire the fatal round, prosecutors charged him under the legal theory known as the "provocative act murder" doctrine, which says that he can be held responsible if prosecutors prove that his alleged criminal acts set off a series of events that led to the death.

Once inside the store, Atkins — who was struck in the arm during the firefight — held a group of shoppers and employees hostage for three hours, according to eyewitness accounts relayed to The Times. As they waited, hostage MaryLinda Moss recounted, she used her shirt to wrap Atkins’ bleeding arm and rested her hand on his heart.

“There’s always hope,” Moss recalled telling him. “I know you have a good heart, and I know you don’t want to hurt anybody.”

“You don’t know what I’ve done,” Atkins responded, according to the hostage.

If convicted of all charges, including kidnapping, attempted murder of a police officer and driving recklessly while fleeing authorities, Atkins faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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