A 28-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder after he shot and killed a Trader Joe's employee Saturday when he held workers and customers hostage during a more than two-hour standoff.
Gene Evin Atkins is being held on a $2 million bail, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department website stated. Atkins was taken into custody around 6:30 p.m. Saturday, more than two hours after he ran into the Trader Joe's in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles and barricaded himself.
About two hours before, Atkins shot his grandmother seven times and wounded another woman, who he forced into a car. Atkins drove to the supermarket and ran inside after crashing his vehicle into a pole. He barricaded himself inside and held dozens of employees and customers hostage.
Moments after shots rang out in the supermarket, employee Sean Gerace and helped several of his colleagues escape. Gerace told NBC Los Angeles he was working in the backroom when he heard the commotion around 3 p.m. He and his colleagues ran to an upstairs storage area for safety.
"I grabbed an emergency ladder, barricaded the hallway, grabbed a weapon, put the ladder out the window, and just tried to get the attention of a SWAT officer," Gerace recalled.
Gerace was seen on video signaling to police officers at the scene before he and other employees climbed down the ladder. He helped other workers out of the building before running to safety.
Meanwhile, gunfire erupted between the suspect in the store and police officers outside.
“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, who was outside of the store when the incident occurred, told the Los Angeles Times.
KCAL9 employee Lynne Westafer said she didn’t know the alleged gunman had shot his grandmother several times before the hostage situation.
“He said he would start killing us if he didn’t get to talk to his granny,” Westafer recalled. “And he would start counting down from five — and that was terrifying.”
“I’m mostly angry, I’m still furious. There were moments of total terror. He loved the power and he was going to milk the situation,” she said about the terrifying situation.
The standoff ended when Atkins agreed to handcuff himself and walked out the front door, surrounded by four of the hostages. He was injured when he was taken into custody, police said.
"The heroism that was shown today was second to none and the teams that were able to respond, secure the perimeter and engage in conversation with the suspect no doubt saved lives today," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. "Our hearts go out to everyone who has been traumatized."
A woman, identified by her family and local media as Melyda Corado, was killed during the shootout and standoff. Corado, who was a recently promoted store manager, was pulled out of the store by employees and pronounced dead at the scene.
“They were just so devastated,” Westafer said about the staff who found out about Corado’s death. “Everyone loved her. They’re destroyed. She was in her late 20s. It’s heartbreaking. I can’t even tell you how upset they are.”
The grandmother who was shot seven times was in critical condition while the other woman suffered a grazing wound.
Fire officials said six people, ranging in age from 12 to 81, were taken to the hospital. None had been shot and all were in fair condition.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.