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Armed standoff at Los Angeles Trader Joe’s ends with 1 employee dead, wounded suspect in custody

LOS ANGELES — A Trader Joe’s employee is dead and a wounded suspect is in custody after a standoff in Los Angeles stretched over several tense hours Saturday before the gunman’s surrender.

Los Angeles police have identified the suspect as 28-year-old Gene Evin Atkins.

Atkins is being held on one count of murder and other charges soon to be determined, Los Angeles police Officer Drake Madison told CNN on Sunday. Bail is set at $2 million.

About 40 people were inside the grocery store on Hyperion Avenue in the Silver Lake neighborhood when an armed man ran in, according to police. He had crashed a car he was driving nearby after firing multiple rounds at officers pursuing him, police said.

The man was fleeing police after a shooting in which an elderly woman and a young woman were victims, Los Angeles police Officer Mike Lopez told CNN. Their conditions were not given.

Police said the older woman was the suspect’s grandmother, and he was driving her car when he wrecked it near the Trader Joe’s.

Customers ran out of the store when the armed man burst in and police surrounded the building. During the three-hour standoff, several people walked out of the store with their hands up. Some employees climbed out a back window on a chain ladder.

At a news conference afterward, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said a woman inside Trader Joe’s had been killed. He did not identify her or say how she died. The suspect was wounded in his left arm after exchanging shots with police, Garcetti told reporters once the standoff had ended.

After talking with hostage negotiators, the man, 28, eventually handcuffed himself and surrendered, police said.

The woman killed was Melyda Eldorado, according to her brother, Albert Corado. He said she had worked at Trader Joe’s for four to five years.

“She was the person I loved the most in the world. She was never anyone but herself for better or worse, she was herself,” Corado said.

Melyda Eldorado was a store manager, CNN affiliate KABC reported.

Public safety agencies had responded to the standoff, with an armored police vehicle parked outside the store and ambulances and dozens of law enforcement vehicles arriving on the scene.

Six people ranging in age from 12 to 81 were taken to the hospital afterward, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. All were in fair condition, with no life-threatening injuries, spokeswoman Margaret Stewart said.

Among the injured was a 20-year-old woman, who was removed from a vehicle, Stewart said. It was not immediately known whether that woman was part of the original shooting.

Police Chief Michael Moore earlier said the man shot his grandmother seven times and she had undergone a series of surgeries at a local hospital.

‘Boom, boom, boom, boom’

Don Kohles, 91, told CNN he saw the car crash into a fire hydrant or a utility pole in front of the Trader Joe’s.

“Then this guy comes out of the car and starts running toward TJs,” Kohles said, referring to the grocery store. “I look behind me and there were two police guys coming with heavy guns, then boom, boom, boom, boom, so I go into TJ’s and I see this guy and he comes in.

“And I see the two front-glass doors shot out. I look around and I see a TJ’s employee laying on the ground, then all the help was laying on the ground,” he said. The employee did not appear to be hurt, Kohles said.

“We all laid there for about a half an hour until LAPD came and got us out. They helped carry me across the parking lot, and they sort of tossed me over a wall,” Kohles said.

Witness Devin Field said it appeared traffic prevented the suspect from escaping police when he crashed in front of the store.

The suspect had a pistol in his hand and “just started opening fire on the police behind him,” Field said. When police returned fire, Field and others got down on the ground, he said.

“After he was inside the store for a little while, they had me crawl away from the scene and run away around the corner,” Field said.

Another witness, Miguel Trujillo, said, “He was very focused in getting out of the cops’ vision. The exchange of bullets were all in an instant.