Gunfire had erupted at the Trader Joe’s between police and a gunman, and store manager Melyda Corado was shot.
She was leaving the store when she was struck Saturday afternoon, and ran, bleeding, back inside to seek refuge in her office.
Corado reached her desk and collapsed as a hostage situation unfolded in the store, authorities would later say. She was pronounced dead there by paramedics.
The circumstances of her death were one of many unanswered questions after the incident ended: Who fired the round that killed her?
On Wednesday, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore settled it: One of his officers fired the round that killed Corado.
“I know that it’s every officer’s worst nightmare to hurt an innocent bystander during a violent engagement,” Moore told reporters in a news conference at his headquarters, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I spoke with the officers this morning – they’re devastated. They were devastated in the immediate aftermath of this event.”
Moore said the officer who fired the shot, and that person’s partner, were pursuing suspect Gene Evin Atkins through the neighborhoods of Hollywood and Silver Lake. Atkins had allegedly shot his grandmother and fired at officers during the chase. He crashed his car into a telephone pole next to the store.
He jumped from his car, firing at police as he ran toward the store, Moore recounted. The officers returned fire – and struck Corado.
That determination was made after a forensics investigation, he said.
It was not immediately clear whether the officer involved was placed on administrative leave or if disciplinary action is anticipated, Officer Ray Brown, a department spokesman, told The Washington Post on Tuesday. That decision is probably tied to the ongoing investigation, he said.
Moore pushed back against doubt over the officers’ decision to open fire near a crowded grocery store on a Saturday afternoon.
“I believe it’s what they needed to do in order to defend the people of Los Angeles, defend the people in that store and to defend themselves,” Moore said. “I ask that you place yourself in these two officers’ positions and ask yourself, what would you have done?”
Atkins barricaded himself inside the store after Corado was shot, with some of the 40 to 50 people inside, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Some fled via exits. Others hid. Atkins surrendered after a three-hour hostage situation. He is being held on $9 million bail for charges including murder, attempted murder and kidnapping, the Times reported.
Brown said body-camera footage of the incident would be released by the department, but he was uncertain whether it depicted the fatal gunfire.