Silver Lake - It’s been almost a year.
On July 21, 2018, a Trader Joe's manager named Melyda “Mely” Corado was fatally hit by a policeman’s bullet during an exchange of fire between police and a suspect outside the Hyperion Avenue store.
This Sunday, Corado's friends and family will be holding a memorial to mark the one-year-anniversary of her death. Meanwhile, the suspect in the shootout, Gene Evin Atkins, remains in custody, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for Aug. 28. Although he has expressed a desire to be his own lawyer, he is currently represented by an attorney, Michael Morse, according to the District Attorney’s office.
A case that was tragic to begin with has become more bitter over the last year. Corado’s family has filed a wrongful death suit against the LAPD, claiming officers failed to follow the department’s policy on using deadly force when they opened fire on a suspect.
“Mely’s senseless death is a result of the LAPD’s unwarranted and excessive use of force,” said the family's attorney, Ron Rosengarten.
The LAPD, for its part, has determined that that the officer who opened fire followed department policy based on an internal investigation.
The tragedy as it began, though, had nothing to do with Silver Lake at all. Atkins was living with his grandmother, Mary Madison, in South Central L.A. Tensions had been flaring up in the house because Madison, then 76, was working, while Atkins, then 29, was hanging around the house with his teenage girlfriend. Madison reportedly did not want the girl living in the house.
The argument ended with Atkins shooting his grandmother and grazing his girlfriend with a bullet.
Atkins then ultimately ended up leading police on a chase, which ended when he crashed into a post in front of the Trader Joe’s as shoppers filled the store on a Saturday afternoon. As he and the police exchanged gunfire while he ran into the store, an officer’s bullet accidentally hit Corado - going through her arm into her body. Another bullet wounded Atkins in the arm.
Atkins ended up holding the store hostage for about three hours before handcuffing himself and surrendering to police.
Since then, Atkins has told a judge that he was a prophet sent by Jesus, City News Service reports. He has also said he’s bipolar, and has tried to plead insanity. The judge noted, however, that Atkins had previously been found competent to represent himself at trial.
A not-guilty plea was then entered on his behalf.
He faces 51 criminal counts, including the murder of Corado, since her death allegedly resulted from other felonies of which he’s accused.
The Celebration of Life & Candlelight Vigil for Mely Corado will begin with a memorial service at the Silverlake Community Church, 2930 Hyperion Ave, at 4 p.m. July 21, with doors opening at 3 p.m. It will be followed by a reception, a candlelight vigil in front of church, then a walk down to Trader Joe’s for another vigil at the store from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The event is open to Corado’s friends, co-workers and community, as well as anyone who would like to join in honoring and celebrating her life.