'Destructive and Tragic': 1 Dead After Hours-Long Hostage Situation with Gunman at L.A. Trader Joe's
A Los Angeles Trader Joe’s buzzing with Saturday afternoon shoppers erupted into chaos when a gunman, fleeing from police, stormed inside and held several dozen people hostage over the course of hours, according to law enforcement and multiple news outlets.
One woman in the store was shot and killed, police said.
About three hours after the standoff began, the gunman asked to handcuff himself and surrendered to law enforcement, authorities reportedly said. Negotiations had been ongoing.
Police on Sunday identified the suspected gunman as 28-year-old Gene Evin Atkins.
Authorities previously said Atkins was shot in the left arm in an exchange of gunfire with police, according to the L.A. Times.
He is charged with murder and remained hospitalized Sunday morning in police custody, in lieu of $2 million bail, according to a spokesman with the L.A. Police Department.
The spokesman said additional charges against Atkins are likely. His condition was not immediately available and it was unclear if he has retained an attorney who could comment on his behalf.
Corado was the store manager, the L.A. Times reports, citing a law enforcement source. It was unclear if she was killed by the gunman or by gunfire from responding officers, according to the newspaper.
“She was the person I loved the most in the world,” her brother, Albert Corado, told CNN. “She was never anyone but herself for better or worse, she was herself.”
In a statement to PEOPLE, Trader Joe’s confirmed the deceased was a female store employee but did not identify her.
“Yesterday marks the saddest day in Trader Joe’s history as we mourn the loss of one of our own,” the company said, in part. “Our thoughts are with her family and our Crew Members and customers who experienced this terrifying and unimaginable ordeal.”
Authorities said the hostage situation was the climax of an earlier police pursuit after the gunman shot his grandmother multiple times and injured another woman about 1:30 p.m. local time, then drove away in his grandmother’s 2015 Toyota Camry — taking the woman with him.
He eventually crashed into a pole outside the national grocery chain’s store in L.A.’s Silver Lake neighborhood and ran inside, firing at police the whole time, according to law enforcement and witness accounts. Authorities had tracked him via anti-theft technology in the Camry.
“It was a matter of split seconds between the time he got out, the ‘boom-boom-boom’ and him running into the store,” Dan Zito, a shopper who was in the parking lot at the time, told the L.A. Times.
“The bullets were flying everywhere through the front of the store and across the parking lot,” another person at the scene, Don Kohles, told the paper.
There were about 40 people inside the store when the standoff began, CNN reports.
Over approximately the next three hours — with national TV broadcasting live — some employees and customers were able to leave, including those who were rescued and others who were released by the gunman, according to the New York Times.
“The suspect at the end asked for handcuffs, he handcuffed himself,” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a news conference afterward, where he also announced the woman’s death.
“She was pulled out by the police department from the store,” he said. “The fire department was able to take her but she was pronounced [dead] here on site.”
Speaking with PEOPLE on Sunday morning, the L.A. police spokesman did not have additional details about the investigation.
“The destructive and tragic consequences one person can inflict are at the forefront of our minds tonight, as is the valor & dedication of our men & women who strived to protect so many innocent people,” the L.A. police chief, Michel Moore, tweeted Saturday. “Our thoughts, prayers & hearts are with all effected [sic] by this senseless incident.”
The women hurt in the initial shooting incident both survived, according to the L.A. Times: The suspect’s grandmother, who was shot around seven times, was in critical condition after surgery while the other woman sustained a minor head injury.
Also hospitalized were six people between the ages of 18 and 21, CNN reports. All were in fair condition and expected to live.
An injured woman, 20, was also found at a vehicle outside the store, according to CNN, though it was unclear if she was the same person wounded in the original shooting along with the suspect’s grandmother.
It was not immediately clear if anyone else in the store was shot beyond the woman who was killed.
“The heroism that was shown today was second to none,” Mayor Garcetti said at the Saturday news conference.
Speaking with the L.A. Times, neighborhood residents described a strong connection to their local Trader Joe’s, which one man called “the busiest store in the neighborhood — especially on the weekends.”
Said another local, “We know all the people who work there. We’ve had them over. We’ve hung out with them.”
Saturday’s shooting shattered the usual scene, leaving the store, for hours, surrounded by cop cars and ambulances and firefighters.
In its statement, Trader Joe’s offered its condolences to the victims and said the Silver Lake location “will remain closed until further notice to give our Crew Members time to process yesterday’s events. We will continue to do whatever we can to support them, including providing grief counselors to help them cope with the situation.”