Staying Safe in a Hostage Standoff

The hostage standoff at an L.A. area Trader Joe’s that took the life of the store’s manager, 27-year-old Melyda, “Mely” Corado and left a grandmother clinging to life is a sad reminder of just how quickly domestic violence can turn deadly. 

“Domestic violence is no doubt one of the major issues we have as far as officer safety,” says Palm Springs Police Sgt. Michael Casavan,” adding “it’s one of those things where someone’s personal problems were made public and when they go into the store and they take on civilian casualties that had nothing to do with that situation it’s a very tragic and unfortunate event.”

In October of 2016 it was a domestic violence call that ended with the deaths Palm Springs Police Sgt. Jose “Gil” Vega and Officer Lesley Zerebny.

“We didn’t really know what we were going into and it ended up being an ambush,” says Casavan. 

Police say after 28-year-old Gene Atkins shot his grandmother, then, led police on a chase and after crashing his car, he ran inside the Silver Lake Trader Joe’s, holding innocent people hostage for about hours.

“It’s definitely worst case scenario … innocent bystanders just going there to do their shopping for the day and end up in this major large scale event … that’s not something you see everyday,” says Casavan. 

But despite these types of events being rare and unpredictable, Casavan says there are some things you can do to stay safe if you ever find yourself in this scenario.

One of the most important things you can do, he says is stay calm so you can think clearly and know help is on the way, “The police are going to be coming so the best thing you can do is stay out of their way … hunker down if you can especially in a Trader Joe’s there’s aisles and cash registers get behind something like that so you’re not in the way …if you have the opportunity try to escape … now if the police are already there surrounding the building you want to come out you want to make sure your hands are up and that basically not a threat.”

And he says don’t put yourself in danger by trying to take on the suspect yourself, “We don’t want the people to be the heroes we have guys that are trained to do that that are going to be in there to hopefully stop the threat before it continues.”

Sgt. Casavan also says if you’re watching in real time it’s critical to the safety of the first responders you do not give away any information about their locations on social media.

But he stresses that people who are unstable and at risk of committing these acts of violence usually show signs and it’s important to get them help or alert police before domestic violence spirals out of control and leads to a deadly situation.

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