Trader Joe's suspect always had 'mental problems,' cousin says

SOUTH LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The suspect in the Trader Joe's shooting first shot his grandmother seven times at their South Los Angeles home following an argument before the store standoff, authorities say.

His 78-year-old grandmother was hospitalized at County + USC Medical Center. Relatives say she underwent successful surgery but remains in critical condition.

The suspect, 28-year-old Gene Evin Atkins, was arrested after the three-hour standoff at the Silver Lake store and booked on suspicion of murder. He was being held on $2 million bail.

A cousin of Atkins says his grandmother raised him since he was 9 years old.

He always seemed to have mental health issues, she said.

"I just hope he gets the help that he needs because I believe that he should've gotten help a long time ago," said Charleo Egland, a cousin of the suspect. "Everyone was just brushing it under the rug and nobody was trying to deal with his problems. He's had mental problems since he was a kid."

"I am so sorry that it resulted in this. I don't even know what to say."

Egland said the incident may have begun with an argument with his grandmother who wanted his girlfriend out of the home.

That girlfriend was also wounded in the shooting at the home and authorities say Atkins then forced her into a car and took off in the chase that ended with a crash at Trader Joe's.

He ran into the store and exchanged gunfire with police. Store manager Melyda Corado was shot and killed in the incident, though it has not been determined if she was struck by bullets from police or the suspect.
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