Trader Joe’s Hostage Situation – an Everyday Hero, One Dead, Suspect in Custody

By Faye Higbee

Los Angeles, CA – On Saturday, what normally would have been a pleasant shopping day at the Silver Lake Trader Joe’s grocery store turned into a nightmare. A man crashed his grandmother’s car into a pole near the store, then dragged his girlfriend inside and held customers and employees at gunpoint for three hours.

Update: the Suspect was identified as Gene Evin Atkins, 28. He is being held on $2 Million bail.

According to Fox, the incident began earlier, when the suspect shot his own grandmother seven times, as well as wounding a 20 year old woman (described as his girlfriend). The grandmother was in critical conditionas of this writing. He forced the younger woman into his grandmother’s car and drove off with police chasing him, until he crashed the car into a pole near Trader Joe’s.

He jumped out of the car, dragged the woman behind him, and ran into the store. There he held customers hostage for three hours, threatening them with being shot. Police and SWAT negotiators surrounded the store, engaging the suspect. His name was not released at the time, but he is a 28 year old black male, who finally agreed to handcuff himself as he surrendered to police.

One store employee, Melyda Corado, was killed during the standoff. Store employees pulled her out of the store, but she was pronounced dead at the scene. She was recently promoted to store manager.

Six people were transported to the hospital, none had been shot. The young women he forced to come with him only had a grazing wound. The standoff finally ended at around 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

“He said he would start killing us if he didn’t get to talk to his granny. And he would start counting down from five — and that was terrifying. I’m mostly angry, I’m still furious. There were moments of total terror. He loved the power and he was going to milk the situation.” Lynn Westhafer, Trader Joe’s employee

The Heroes Among Us

Sean Gerace, an employee of Trader Joe’s, heard the gunshots downstairs and quickly barricaded the nearby customers and himself inside a safe area. Then he used a chain ladder to get them out of the store, as well as signaling the police officers below.

There are often heroes among us, and they’re not always who you’d expect. Sean’s quick thinking and ability to create a plan immediately may have saved several lives. According to news accounts, there were approximately 40  people in the store when the incident occurred, some of whom ran out immediately when they saw the suspect run in.

“The heroism that was shown today was second to none and the teams that were able to respond, secure the perimeter and engage in conversation with the suspect no doubt saved lives today. Our hearts go out to everyone who has been traumatized.” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti