Meet the Trader Joe's Shoppers Who Helped Defuse a Hostage Situation
The suspect, Gene Atkins, remains in police custody after July's incident.
The ordinary citizens who risked their own lives to help save others during a shooting inside a California Trader Joe’s are discussing the events of July 21.
The day started with police chasing suspect Gene Atkins, who was wanted for shooting down his grandmother and kidnapping his girlfriend. Police video captured him crashing into a pole outside the Los Angeles Trader Joe's before he went into the grocery store and took several people hostage.
One shopper who ended up becoming a hostage negotiator and helped end the rampage spoke to Inside Edition about the horrifying ordeal.
“I was the intermediary for when the police called,” Marylinda Moss told Inside Edition. “When things got amped up, I would slow things down and say, 'Can we stop for a minute?'”
As more than two dozen shoppers and employees escaped out windows and sprinted to safety, Moss, a mom and artist, was one of several hostages held at gunpoint.
“He had the gun in his hand. Clearly he was a man with a gun. I was terrified, but he was not threatening me,” Moss said.
Moss quickly tried to earn the trust of Atkins, who had been shot by police and was going into shock.
“He looked at me and asked me to massage his hand because of the pain in his arm,” she recalled.
Another hostage, Mike D'Angelo, also offered to help. The suspect asked for a bottle of Jack Daniel's, D'Angelo recalled.
“I poured it in his mouth, I poured it in his wounds,” he said.
Then a gruesome discovery was made as assistant store manager Melyda Corado had been fatally hit by a police bullet and was lying in a pool of blood.
D’Angelo brought her body out of the store, then, in an extraordinary act of bravery, he went back in.
“I didn’t want to leave them,” he said.
Moss then took a bold step of her own with the suspect.
“I put out my hand and I said, ‘I know you have a good heart and I know you don’t want to hurt anybody.’ He says, ‘You don't know what I did this morning.’ I said, ‘It doesn't matter,’” she said.
When the suspect finally agreed to turn himself in, he asked police to leave handcuffs at the front door so he could put them on and prove he was no longer armed. D’Angelo went to retrieve the handcuffs and Moss put them on the suspect.
When Atkins surrendered, Moss and D’Angelo and two other hostages formed a protective circle around the suspect because he feared he'd be shot.
An officer tackled D’Angelo to the ground in the process.
Two strangers found themselves in an extraordinary situation and said they could not have done it without each other.
Atkins faces 51 charges, including murder and attempted murder. He has not entered a plea and his arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 21.
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