Bail set at $2 million for suspect identified in Trader Joe’s standoff
(CNN) — Los Angeles police identified the suspect in Saturday’s deadly armed standoff at a Trader Joe’s grocery store as Gene Evin Atkins.
Atkins, 28, is being held on one count of murder and other charges soon to be determined, Los Angeles police Officer Drake Madison told CNN on Sunday. His bail was set at $2 million.
A Trader Joe’s employee, Melyda Eldorado, died in the standoff, which stretched over several tense hours Saturday before the gunman surrendered.
About 40 people were inside the grocery store on Hyperion Avenue in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake neighborhood when an armed man ran in, police said. He had crashed a car nearby after firing multiple rounds at officers pursuing him, police said.
The man was fleeing police after a shooting involving an elderly woman and a young woman, Los Angeles police Officer Mike Lopez told CNN. Their conditions were not given.
The older woman was the suspect’s grandmother, police said. He was driving her car when he wrecked it near the Trader Joe’s.
Customers ran out of the store when the armed man burst in. Police surrounded the building. During the three-hour standoff, several people walked out of the store with their hands up. Some employees climbed out a back window on a chain ladder.
After talking with hostage negotiators, the suspect handcuffed himself and surrendered, police said.
At a news conference afterward, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said a woman inside the store was killed. He did not identify her or say how she died. The suspect’s arm was injured in an exchange of gunfire with police, Garcetti told reporters after the standoff ended.
The victim’s brother identified her. Eldorado worked at Trader Joe’s for four to five years, Albert Corado said.
“She was the person I loved the most in the world. She was never anyone but herself for better or worse, she was herself,” Corado said.
Melyda Eldorado was a store manager, CNN affiliate KABC reported.
Public safety agencies responded to the standoff. An armored police vehicle was on the scene along with ambulances and dozens of law enforcement vehicles.
Six people ranging in age from 12 to 81 were taken to the hospital afterward, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. No one suffered life-threatening injuries, spokeswoman Margaret Stewart said.
Among the injured was a 20-year-old woman, who was removed from a vehicle, Stewart said. It was not immediately known whether that woman was part of the original shooting.
Police Chief Michael Moore earlier said the man shot his grandmother seven times and she had undergone a series of surgeries at a local hospital.
‘Boom, boom, boom, boom’
Don Kohles, 91, told CNN he saw the car crash into a fire hydrant or a utility pole in front of the Trader Joe’s.
“Then this guy comes out of the car and starts running toward TJs,” Kohles said, referring to the grocery store. “I look behind me and there were two police guys coming with heavy guns, then boom, boom, boom, boom, so I go into TJ’s and I see this guy and he comes in.
“And I see the two front-glass doors shot out. I look around and I see a TJ’s employee laying on the ground, then all the help was laying on the ground,” he said. The employee did not appear to be hurt, Kohles said.
“We all laid there for about a half an hour until LAPD came and got us out. They helped carry me across the parking lot, and they sort of tossed me over a wall,” Kohles said.
Witness Devin Field said it appeared traffic prevented the suspect from escaping police when he crashed in front of the store.
The suspect had a pistol in his hand and “just started opening fire on the police behind him,” Field said. When police returned fire, Field and others got down on the ground, he said.
“After he was inside the store for a little while, they had me crawl away from the scene and run away around the corner,” Field said.
Another witness, Miguel Trujillo, said, “He was very focused in getting out of the cops’ vision. The exchange of bullets were all in an instant.”