District Attorney clears officers in death of bystander during gunfight outside LA Trader Joe’s

LOS ANGELES, CA Two Los Angeles police officers who engaged in a 2018 gunfight with a suspect outside a Silver Lake Trader Joe’s market that resulted in a police bullet striking and killing an assistant store manager acted lawfully and will not be charged with a crime, according to a report released Tuesday by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.

In a newly released memorandum, prosecutors determined the officers were justified in using deadly force because they were trying to protect themselves and the public.

The memorandum also offered more details of the events which led officers to initially pursue suspect Gene Atkins, why officers began to shoot toward a crowded market, and when it became clear to law enforcement that Trader Joe’s employee, Melyda Corado, 27, had been struck in the firefight.

The report stated:

“It is our conclusion that the officers acted in lawful self-defense and defense of others and are not criminally responsible for the shootings of Atkins or Corado.”

LAPD Officers Sinlen Tse and Sarah Winans will not face criminal charges in the death of Melyda “Mely” Corado, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office report said:

“Furthermore, we conclude that Corado was killed due to Atkins’ proactive act resulting in the officers’ responding to Atkins with deadly force and therefore [Atkins] is criminally responsible for Corado’s death. We are closing our file and will take no further action in the matter.”

Tse and Winans were involved in the pursuit that led to the shootout at Silver Lake Trader Joe’s on the afternoon of July 21. According to police, Gene Atkins, 28, allegedly shot his grandmother and girlfriend at the family’s home in South L.A.  Atkins then fled northbound, after which the vehicle he was driving was tracked via LoJack in the Hollywood area after 3 p.m.

Atkins then led Tse and Winans on a 15-minute pursuit that ended when he crashed into a pole outside the Trader Joe’s on Hyperion Avenue. Atkins is said to have shot at officers during the chase and continued to shoot at them once he ran into the store.

Both officers returned fire as they sought cover just behind a north wall abutting the store’s parking lot. During the shootout, Store Manager Corado was hit by a bullet shot by police as she attempted to run away from the store, the department reported in the days following the incident.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore told reporters:

“The two Los Angeles police officers who had been pursuing Atkins returned fire in defense of their lives and to protect Atkins from harming other individuals.” 

The memorandum states that Tse fired five rounds in Atkins’ direction, while Winans fired three:

“Nine seconds passed from the time Atkins crashed the Camry until he entered the Trader Joe’s. During this time, Corado ran towards the entrance doors of the Trader Joe’s.”

Moments later, she ran back into view of the market’s surveillance cameras, followed by Atkins, the report said.

“At some point during these nine seconds, Corado was struck by gunfire,” according to the District Attorney’s report.

But he added that surveillance footage did not record Corado being struck nor was the fatal shot recorded by officer-worn body cameras or police vehicle dashboard cameras.

Police were unaware that Corado was injured until after Atkins corralled a number of hostages and used one of their cell phones to contact officers in an attempt to negotiate.

Atkins eventually allowed two hostages to carry Corado outside to police.

Trader Joe's shooting: DA says officers acted lawfully. Won't be charged in employee's death
Gene Atkins appears in Los Angeles County Superior Court on July 2018. (Youtube screenshot)

Los Angeles Fire Department officials began administering treatment to Corado, but a short time later she was pronounced dead at the scene.

Subsequent ballistic tests revealed it was one of Tse’s rounds that was the fatal shot.

Atkins, who was struck in the arm but survived, is facing 54 criminal charges, according to the report, including murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, and assault on an officer with a gun.

The report exonerating Officers Winans and Tse comes a week before newly sworn-in progressive District Attorney George Gascón assumes office.

Gascón has promised to implement many criminal justice reforms, including a pledge to stop seeking the death penalty when prosecuting individual cases and stopping most uses of cash bail.

He also vowed to review law enforcement’s fatal use-of-force cases going back to 2012.

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Watch: Bodycam footage revealed in fatal police shooting where suspect stabbed an officer

September 3, 2020

JACKSONVILLE, FL – Recently released bodycam footage from an officer-involved shooting that happened back in April of this year showcases the moments when a female suspect attacks and stabs a female police officer within moments of her opening her front door to police.

The released footage comes shortly after officials deemed the fatal shooting justified, based upon the actions of the suspect featured in the video.

On April 11th, Officer Elizabeth Mechling was reportedly responding to a domestic dispute at a home located in Northwest Jacksonville on Golfair Boulevard.

When Officer Mechling arrived at the residence and knocked on the door, 29-year-old Leah Baker rushes out armed with a knife and stabbed Officer Mechling in the arm.

The officer immediately creates distance between herself and the armed suspect and orders Baker to drop the knife, which the suspect initially did.

Thereafter, Officer Mechling ordered Baker to get on the ground.

Instead of complying, Baker begins walking down the porch steps and attempts to pick up the knife she initially dropped. Officer Mechling then fires two rounds toward Baker, which investigators stated that the rounds did not strike the suspect.

When the officer called in that shots had been fired, Sergeant J.C. Nobles arrived on the scene.

Sgt. Nobles then orders Baker to drop the knife while at a distance from the suspect, as Baker had managed to retrieve it earlier after Officer Mechling’s previous rounds missed Baker.

Baker apparently relinquished the knife once again, and Officer Mechling orders Baker to get on the ground while Sgt. Nobles is standing off to the side of the suspect. Instead of complying, Baker reached for and grabbed the knife again and started to run directly toward Sgt. Nobles.

The police sergeant fired four rounds at Baker, which grounded the suspect. However, the suspect was still not giving up the knife and a police K9 had arrived on the scene with additional backup.

The K9 was released on Baker while other officers continued to order Baker to let go of the knife. The suspect was said to have even begin attacking the police K9.

Officers were eventually able to get the knife away from the suspect, and Baker reportedly was pronounced dead shortly after being transported to an area hospital.

Back in July of this year, Baker’s mother was quick to admonish police shooting her daughter in April, claiming that Baker’s mental health status shouldn’t have resulted in a police shooting:

“I had her in what I thought was a safe house. She did suffer from mental illness. … I never thought that the police would kill my daughter.”

After the release of the bodycam footage, Baker’s mother somewhat amended her stance on the matter, claiming she couldn’t “condone” what her daughter did to the officer:

“I can’t condone my daughter’s actions, but at he same time I have fought with different hospitals to get the help she needed.”

The State Attorney’s Office ruled ruled that both the shots fired by Sgt. Nobles and Officer Mechling were justified in the context that they occurred.

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Author: Chris Walsh

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