The Tender, Terrifying Truth about What Happened inside the Trader Joe’s Hostage Siege

About halfway through the three-hour siege at Trader Joe’s in Silver Lake, the wounded gunman, Gene Atkins, looked at one of his hostages, MaryLinda Moss, and told her it was all over for him. “I just shot at a cop,” he said. Moss, a 55-year-old artist who exudes calm, feared a suicidal gunman could spark a bloodbath. Through a series of disastrous decisions by Atkins, dozens of strangers had ended up at the grocery store on a hot Saturday afternoon, drenched in fear and surrounded by SWAT teams, helicopters, squad cars and ambulances. She put her hand on his heart. “I told him: ‘There’s always hope. I know you have a good heart, and I know you don’t want to hurt anybody.’” Atkins, 28, protested: “You don’t know what I’ve done.” Earlier that day, prosecutors say, he had wounded his grandmother during a family fight in South Los Angeles, then forced his girlfriend into a car and fled. Hours later, he led police on a chase, which ended when he crashed outside Trader Joe’s. “When you put your hand on somebody’s heart,” Moss told me 10 days later, sitting on the stoop of her home in Mount Washington, “it grounds them. I was trying to ground him, and manipulate him, yes, in the best way.” Read more: