“As chief of police, I am sorry for the loss, this tragic loss,” Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said at a press conference. “I want to express my deepest condolences and sympathy to her family and to everyone who knew her.”
Authorities said assistant store manager Melyda Corado was exiting the grocery store just as suspect Gene Atkins, 28, crashed his car into a light post during a police chase and began exchanging gunfire with two responding officers.
During the violent exchange, a bullet that one of the officers fired struck Corado. She ran back inside the store and collapsed from the injury, Moore said.
Video footage of the police chase that led to the standoff shows Atkins abandoning his vehicle near the store’s entrance before running inside. Once there, he held an estimated 40 to 50 people hostage for several hours.
Atkins was on the run after shooting his grandmother and kidnapping his girlfriend during an argument earlier in the day, police said.
Moore described the two responding officers, who have not been identified, as “devastated” by the news of Corado’s death. He also said he stands by the officers’ handling of the situation because they acted in self-defense and were uncertain whether the suspect would become an active shooter once inside the store.
“I know that it is every officer’s worst nightmare to hurt an innocent bystander,” Moore said. “This is a heartbreaking reminder of the split-second decisions that officers must make every day and it’s also a sobering reminder of the destruction that a lone individual with a handgun can create.”
Moore said he would wait until the investigation is complete before determining whether either officer will face any consequences.
Atkins has been ordered held on a $9 million bail and faces a number of charges, including one count of murder, six counts of attempted murder, 13 counts of false imprisonment of hostages and one count of felony evading, Moore said.
Responding to the police department’s announcement on Tuesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Corado’s family and friends, as well as the rest of the city’s residents, deserve “complete transparency in understanding the full circumstances of her death.”
“Saturday was a dark day for the family of Melyda Corado & it is our responsibility to shed light as quickly as possible on what happened,” he tweeted.