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‘If We Don’t Do Anything, They’ll Keep Killing People’

Two years after the LAPD murdered Mely Corado at the Silver Lake Trader Joe’s, her brother Albert marches in her memory.

Mely Corado at the Science Center, a month before she was shot and killed by the LAPD (Image courtesy of Albert Corado)

Here are three facts:

  1. On July 21, 2018, 27-year-old Melyda “Mely” Corado was killed by the LAPD at her place of work, as officers opened fire into the Trader Joe’s on Hyperion Avenue in Silver Lake while in pursuit of a suspect.
  2. Gene Atkins, the suspect in question (who did not shoot Mely), is currently facing charges for her murder.
  3. No LAPD personnel have been charged for Mely’s death, and the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners (BOPOC) ruled that officers acted within policy.

Facts are difficult to come by in this case, as they are in virtually every case of an officer-involved shooting (OIS) — a euphemistic term the LAPD uses when they murder a person. That’s because, from the day the LAPD shot Mely to death, they’ve worked hard (with tacit and explicit assistance from the LA City government) to obfuscate details and withhold information from the Corado family.

“She wasn’t well-known or famous. She was a normal person who this happened to. It could have happened to anyone,” Albert Corado, Mely’s brother, told me.

The Murder of Melyda Corado

On the day Mely was shot by LAPD officers, Albert was working at a coffee shop in Minneapolis. A minute after screening a call from his father (who’d been calling more since Albert moved away from LA), Albert received another call from his brother, Michael.

“I can’t stress enough how in the dark we all were. No one knew at this point that cops had shot in the store. We knew there was a shooting [at Trader Joe’s], and that some people had been able to escape through the windows and that was it,” Albert says. “My thinking was… this couldn’t happen to me. That happens to other people, you say ‘that’s sad’ when you see it on TV and move on.”

After Albert told his boss what was happening, he was sent home for the day. “I had this feeling like… something is going to happen. This might be the worst day of my life,” Albert says.

As soon as Albert got to his car, he went to Twitter to try and get more information.

The response was immediate and overwhelming. But while people signal boosted his tweet and sent their thoughts, no one reached out with information about Mely. “In the next hour and a half, the panic really set it in,” Albert remembers.

Later that night, outside of his apartment, Albert received a call from a Trader Joe’s representative. They told him that Mely had been shot, but they didn’t know anything more than that.

About 10 minutes later, Albert got a blocked call from someone at the LAPD. After asking if Albert had been in contact with someone at Trader Joe’s, the LAPD representative said they hadn’t heard any report of anyone being injured. Albert was confused, understandably, but the LAPD doubled down and assured him that everything was fine — there had been no report of injury.

“I never trusted cops, but in that moment, I wanted to believe them,” says Albert.

Shortly after, Albert got in touch with Mely’s roommate (also a friend of his). The roommate told him that Mely was dead.

Later, Albert’s father — who had been in contact with employees from Trader Joe’s who witnessed the shooting — called him and said, “the police did it.”

Albert remembers, “I was just outside of my apartment, thinking it was bullshit. How could this have happened? I just spoke to her the day before. They fired into the store around 3 PM and within 25 minutes she was dead. We spent three hours looking for her while she was bleeding out on the floor. The thing that still haunts me is that by the time I got the first call that something was going on, Mely was already dead.”

On July 22, the LA Times reported that the suspect, Gene Atkins, had shot and killed Mely. The LA Times reported it that way because that’s what the LAPD initially told journalists.

“The next day, we were on the phone for hours with [Mayor] Garcetti and [LAPD Chief] Moore and whoever would talk to us, trying to see her body in the morgue,” says Albert. “They kept telling us ‘we’ll release her in a few days to the funeral home of your choice.’ Finally, we were able to see her for five minutes before they shooed us away. That’s when the cover-up started to come into focus. That’s when I knew we were going to have to take legal action against the city.”

The Corado family didn’t see Mely’s autopsy until a full year later.

The March for Mely

“The problem is, because they put Mely’s murder on Gene Atkins, which I don’t agree with, they can withhold information. We’ve had a few preliminary hearings, but we’ve had to fight for every bit of evidence: the autopsy, crime scene photos, everything,” Albert says of the Corado family lawsuit against the LAPD. The trial is currently scheduled to start in March 2021.

On the first anniversary of Mely’s death, the Corado family held a celebration of her life at the Silverlake Community Church, including food and music and local vendors.

Speakers included City Councilmember David Ryu. “Had I known who he was and what his record was, I would have never allowed him to speak,” Albert says now. Ryu has accepted nearly $45,000 in campaign donations from the Los Angeles Police Protective League.

“In the beginning, the lawyers told us to read prepared statements. We were trying not to be too combative, the lawsuit was how we were going to fight back,” Albert recalls. “After that anniversary I decided that not only would we be the grieving family of Mely, we would also become her biggest advocates. I knew that the trial would take a long time so I got involved in organizing and activism to take the fight to the LAPD in a more immediate way.”

“The March for Mely is about demanding accountability and reminding people what happened. I want to send a message to the rich white people of Silver Lake: the cops don’t give a fuck about you. They came into your neighborhood and opened fire at the store you shop in,” Albert says. “The fact that only Gene Atkins and Mely got hit was a miracle. It could have been anyone in that building. It could have been someone’s child. In fact, it was someone’s child. My father lost his daughter that day and somehow her murder was ‘in-policy.’”

The march will feature speakers including Dr. Melina Abdullah from Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and City Council candidate Nithya Raman. (Disclosure: I first met Albert while we were volunteering for the Raman campaign in January 2020, and we’ve maintained a friendly relationship since.)

“David Ryu and cop-loving councilmembers are the past. Nithya and Melina are the future of this city,” Albert says of the choice to have these women speak at the March for Mely. “This wasn’t a random act of violence. This wasn’t a car accident. The only reason police can do this is because they think they can get away with it. And if we don’t do anything, they’ll keep killing people.”

I asked Albert if he had any final thoughts to relay to the people reading this article, and those who attend the March for Mely. He said:

“I quit my job at Stumptown last year to focus on homelessness outreach, and started meeting people from NOlympics and Street Watch and learning more about getting involved. This is something that anyone can do. You don’t have to be someone with a lot of degrees to make a difference. I never went to college. It took losing my baby sister to get into this world, but I’m here and I won’t stop until there is justice for Mely and every person killed by police. Police shootings can happen to anyone, and anyone can get involved in dismantling the structure so police stop killing people.”

The March for Mely will start at 2pm on Sunday, July 19th, at the Northeast LA Police Station and end at the Trader Joe’s on Hyperion Ave, where Mely was murdered by the LAPD.

Mely Forever.

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