LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The deposition of the suspect whose pursuit led to a Los Angeles police officer accidentally shooting and killing an assistant manager outside the Trader Joe’s store in Silver Lake in 2018 has been rescheduled until next week and will be conducted virtually, a judge has ruled.
Under Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Malcolm Mackey’s order signed Tuesday, Gene Atkins will be deposed Tuesday on a remote basis by attorneys for both sides in the victim’s family’s civil suit.
“Gene Atkins is a critical witness to the shooting that gives rise to this action,” Mackey’s order states.
The scheduling change occurred because lawyers for the City Attorney’s Office preferred that the deposition, originally scheduled for Jan. 22 at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, be instead conducted virtually, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ court papers.
Atkins, now 32, was shot in the left elbow as he ran from the car into the market. He was subsequently charged with murder involving 27-year-old Melyda “Mely” Corado’s July 21, 2018, death, along with 50 other counts.
Corado’s relatives filed a wrongful death and negligence suit against the city and the officers in November 2018. Atkins had previously sent a handwritten note to the plaintiffs’ lawyers and said that he never used his weapon after his car crashed outside the business.
“I did not fire any shots outside of the store,” according to Atkins, who further alleges police altered video footage and planted shell casings. He also says he wants Corado’s family members to win their lawsuit against the city and that he hopes their lawyers have the family’s best interests at heart.
In previous court papers, the plaintiffs’ attorneys said Atkins may have waived his Fifth Amendment rights by sending the letter and that they wanted to depose him in preparing their opposition to the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which is scheduled to be heard May 13. They noted that the judge twice denied them access to the LAPD’s Force Investigation Division report into the shooting until after Atkins’ criminal case trial is over.
Lawyers for the City Attorney’s Office stated in their earlier court papers that Atkins’ claim in his letter that he did not fire his gun before entering Trader Joe’s is undermined by ballistics evidence collected at the scene and that by the time the officers arrived at Trader Joe’s, they knew that Atkins had opened fire at his home, had shot and perhaps killed a person inside that home, had kidnapped a woman as he fled the home, had collided with other vehicles and nearly struck pedestrians, had tried to carjack an occupied vehicle and had fired his gun directly at police officers several times during the pursuit.
“Thus, the officers’ use of force was objectively reasonable based on the facts and circumstances confronting the officers,” the lawyers for the City Attorney’s Office argue in their court papers.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office released a report in December 2020 finding that Officers Sinlen Tse and Sarah Winans were “justified in using deadly force in an attempt to stop” Atkins.