Man charged with actions leading to death at Trader Joe's is found competent to stand trial

Lila Seidman
·2 min read
LOS ANGELES. CALIF. - JULY 24, 2018. Gene Evin Atkins appears in Los Angeles Criminal Court on Tuesday, July 24, 2018. His arraignment was postponend until August 14. Atkins led police on the chase that ended at the Trader Joe's market in Los Feliz. He did not fire the shot that killed the store manager but, under the law. he can be held responsible for her death if he set off the chain of events that led to her shooting. He's faces 31 charges, including murder. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)
Gene Evin Atkins appears in Los Angeles Criminal Court in July 2018. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A man accused of engaging in a gun battle with police that led to the accidental death of an assistant manager at a Trader Joe's market in Silver Lake has been found competent to stand trial.

Gene Evin Atkins, 31, has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to murder in the July 2018 killing of Melyda Corado.

The bullet that killed Corado, 27, was discharged by Los Angeles police officers, who shot at Atkins as he fled into the store after a car chase. The Los Angeles County district attorney's office declined to bring charges against the officers.

Officers had been chasing Atkins across the city, and he had fired on them numerous times during the pursuit, which police said began after he shot his grandmother.

Atkins crashed his car into a lamppost outside the Trader Joe’s and fired three rounds at LAPD Officers Sinlen Tse and Sarah Winans, according to a memorandum. Tse and Winans returned fire, with eight shots in total. One round struck Atkins in the elbow, according to the document. Another fatally wounded Corado.

Prosecutors decided that the officers were reacting to Atkins’ provocations. Atkins, not the officers, was “criminally responsible for Corado’s death,” prosecutors wrote in their decision. The decision arrived after the city Police Commission and Chief Michel Moore ruled that the officers' actions were within policy.

Corado’s family sued the city, alleging negligence and excessive force; the case is pending. Her older brother Albert said he believes the LAPD is at fault and is trying to pin his sister's death on Atkins, who is facing a multitude of other criminal charges tied to the incident.

"What's still upsetting about this whole situation is that the LAPD is trying to remove the culpability from themselves and put it all on Gene Atkins," he said.

Among more than 50 criminal counts, Atkins faces charges of attempted murder, attempted murder of a officer, assault on a peace officer with a semiautomatic firearm, kidnapping, fleeing a pursuing officer's motor vehicle while driving recklessly, grand theft of an automobile, discharge of a firearm with gross negligence, false imprisonment of a hostage and mayhem.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench set a pretrial hearing for July 22.

City News Service and Times staff writer James Queally contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.