A man accused of being involved in a shootout with police that resulted in the death of an assistant manager at Trader Joe’s in Silver Lake in 2018 will be allowed to act as his own attorney, a judge said Thursday.
Superior Court Judge Lisa B. Lench said the case has “some very complicated legal issues” and that she thought it was a “very bad idea” for Gene Evin Atkins to represent himself.
The 32-year-old defendant replied that he still wanted to continue representing himself.
Atkins, who was found mentally competent to stand trial, briefly acted as his own attorney for about three months after being charged with murder for allegedly setting off a chain of events on July 21, 2018 that led to the death of Melyda “Mely’ ‘ Maricela Corado, who was fatally shot by a police officer in front of the store in the 2700 block of Hyperion Avenue.
Atkins also faces 50 other charges, including attempted murder, attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, assault on a law enforcement officer with a semi-automatic firearm, kidnapping, fleeing from a law enforcement officer’s motor vehicle chasing you while driving recklessly, grand theft of a car, discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, shooting at an occupied motor vehicle, false imprisonment of a hostage, and mutilation.
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore confirmed in 2018 that the bullet that killed Corado was fired by an officer, not Atkins, who turned himself in to a SWAT team after about three hours of negotiations following a tense standoff inside the store, where several customers and employees were held hostage at gunpoint.
Although he did not shoot Corado, Atkins is charged with her murder on the theory that he set off the events that led to the 27-year-old woman’s death, including allegedly shooting her 76-year-old grandmother and his 17-year-old wife. ex-girlfriend in South Los Angeles, then took her grandmother’s car and led police on a wild chase during which he tried to steal a white Jeep Wrangler at gunpoint from a gas station.
He allegedly shot at police during the chase and again when he got out of the car after an accident and fled to the store.
Corado’s relatives filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit in November 2018 against the city and officers.
The Los Angeles police officer who fired the shot that accidentally killed Corado said in an affidavit that he had no choice but to open fire to protect himself, his partner and bystanders.
“I had no choice but to fire my gun at Gene Atkins to stop this deadly threat that he himself had created,” Sinlen Tse said in his affidavit. “I fired based on his actions and stopped when I realized he was moving towards the entrance of Trader Joe’s to avoid hitting people inside.”
In a 2020 memo, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office found that Tse and Officer Sarah Winans were “justified in using deadly force in an attempt to apprehend” the suspect.
Atkins allegedly shot the two officers during the chase, and again when he got out of the car after a crash and fled into the store.
“After the accident, Atkins immediately got out of the Camry and fired his pistol three times at Tse and Winans as he ran toward Trader Joe’s.”
According to the DA memo “Tse and Winans returned fire in an attempt to prevent Atkins from trying to hurt or kill them or the civilians at Trader Joe’s. Atkins showed no regard for the lives of others and it was reasonable and legal for Tse and Winans to use deadly force to protect themselves and the public.”
The District Attorney’s Office noted there were “no visible bystanders” behind Atkins or in the line of fire when officers shot the suspect, and evidence suggests Corado was “accidentally struck by gunfire as she ran toward the front doors.” . of the store after the vehicle accident.
“Neither I nor Officer Winans fired additional shots out of concern for customers inside Trader Joe’s, demonstrating one of several instances in which Officer Winans and I displayed restraint, control and reverence for human life,” Tse said.
Tse said he never considered going after Atkins within the market, saying that would only have put more customers and employees in jeopardy “because of the poor decisions Gene Atkins was making and the fact that he had no regard for human life except his own.”
Tse said he found out later that one of the five shots he fired turned out to be the one that killed Corado by mistake. Atkins did “absolutely nothing” to help Corado for nearly 20 minutes despite knowing she was injured, Tse says.
In her statement, Winans said there came a point where Atkins posed as deadly a threat to Trader Joe’s patrons as he did to her and Tse.
“I could no longer avoid the unfortunate need to fire my gun to stop Gene Atkins’ deadly actions, but I was also forced into this situation because of the deadly actions Gene Atkins had shown he was capable of,” Winans said. who fired three shots.
“My heart goes out to his family for his tragic loss,” Tse said.
Atkins remains jailed while awaiting a pre-trial hearing on January 12. A trial date has not yet been set.