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Family of Trader Joe's manager who was fatally shot by police sues city and two LAPD officers

Family of Trader Joe's manager who was fatally shot by police sues city and two LAPD officers
A photo of Melyda Corado, who was fatally shot by police in July, with family members is displayed behind attorney Ron Rosengarten during a news conference Thursday announcing the filing of a lawsuit against the city and the LAPD. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The family of a Trader Joe’s assistant manager who was fatally shot by a Los Angeles police officer during a gun battle with a fleeing suspect outside the store in Silver Lake filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and two LAPD officers on Thursday.

In their suit, Salvador Albert Corado and Albert Corado Jr., the father and brother, respectively, of manager Melyda “Mely” Corado, allege civil rights violations, battery, excessive force, negligence, infliction of emotional distress, failure to adequately train officers and conspiracy to cover up misconduct.

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John Taylor, an attorney for the Corados, said the family sued because the Police Department has not provided the family with all of the video it has of the shooting.

“We have gotten nothing from the city of Los Angeles,” he said. “The lawyers do not respond to us. The officials ignore us. We now are going to get the help of the court system.”

Corado’s father said his family has not even gotten access to his daughter’s autopsy.

“We have been stuck in a time capsule of pain and distress,” he said.

The slain woman’s brother said he spoke with LAPD Chief Michel Moore the day after his sister died and Moore said the police would provide more answers. But that hasn’t happened, he said.

“We have had nothing but empty gestures and empty words from the LAPD and Chief Moore,” Albert Corado Jr. said at a news conference.

“We constantly ask ourselves, why did this happen? How did this happen?” he said. “The LAPD owes us an answer.”

Corado was fatally shot on July 21 after two police officers pursued a man suspected of shooting his grandmother in South Los Angeles and taking a young woman hostage.

Gene Evin Atkins led the officers on a lengthy car chase with the hostage in his grandmother’s car, officials said. The chase ended at the Silver Lake Trader Joe’s on Hyperion Avenue, where he stopped the car ran toward the store, which was crowded with Saturday afternoon shoppers.

As he dashed toward the store, Atkins shot at officers, who returned fire as he ran inside the store. One of the officer’s bullets struck Corado, killing her.

Atkins was also wounded in the arm, but he held shoppers and employees hostage inside the store for three hours before surrendering.

Atkins, 28, has been charged with 51 felony counts, including murder, kidnapping, premeditated attempted murder and attempted murder of a peace officer. Under California law, Atkins is considered criminally responsible for Corado’s death.

The LAPD has released video and audio clips in two batches to comply with a new policy requiring recordings to be made public within 45 days of shootings by police officers. Moore released the first video just days after the shooting. It showed the pursuit with shots fired by Atkins and the gunfight outside the grocery store.

“On behalf of myself and the rest of the department, I want to express my deepest condolences and sympathy to her family and everyone that knew her,” Moore said of Corado’s death. “I know that it’s every officer’s worst nightmare to hurt an innocent bystander during a violent engagement. I spoke with the officers this morning — they’re devastated. They were devastated in the immediate aftermath of this event.”

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The edited releases, like others under the policy, include voiceover commentary by Los Angeles Police Department officials and are stitched together from footage that includes body cam and dash cam recordings and 911 calls. The editing has been criticized by the Corado family’s attorneys and others as attempting to shape the story favorably for the LAPD.

Josh Rubenstein, a spokesman for the LAPD, has previously said the department cannot comment on pending litigation but continues to express sympathy for the Corado family.

Rubenstein asserted that all videos have been released publicly and they capture the moments when the two police officers, Sinlen Tse and Sarah Winans, fired their weapons.

“Everything from the use of force is out there,” Rubenstein said.

But Taylor disputed Rubenstein’s statement, pointing out that video has not been released from LAPD officers who pulled up to the scene as the shooting was happening.

Additional videos, including those from the body cameras of other officers at the scene during the hostage standoff, have not been released.

Corado was beloved by Trader Joe’s regulars, and tributes to her piled up outside the store in the days after her death.

Experts say the circumstances of the shootout gave officers limited options.

Charles “Sid” Heal, a retired Los Angeles County sheriff’s commander and expert on law enforcement shootings, said the video reflects the realities of the life-and-death decisions officers face when a suspect fires at them in a public place.

“The suspect created the situation and law enforcement inherited it,” Heal said. “The alternative was to surrender the lives of hostages inside the store, plus he could have killed those officers. … You can play the scenario over and over again, but nobody is going to have a better option.”

Heal, a former SWAT supervisor, said Atkins could have entered the store and shot those inside.

“People in a case of a tragic loss of life will look for solutions, but sometimes there isn’t one,” Heal said. “The standard is not perfection. As an officer, if you don’t shoot here, you are risking the lives of hostages and your officers. As tragic as this loss is, this isn’t a complex decision.”

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