For the first time, some of the hostages reveal the chilling hours they spent fearing for their lives while being held inside a Los Angeles grocery store in 48 HOURS: “Live to Tell: Standoff at Trader Joe’s,” to be broadcast Saturday, Feb. 16 (10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Anchored by Jim Axelrod, “Live to Tell: Standoff at Trader Joe’s” is the terrifying and inspiring story of how a group of people, afraid they would die after being taken hostage by a gunman, banded together in the aisles of a supermarket to survive. It’s also their story, told through their eyes, of incredible bravery when facing life and death.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” says Lynne Westafer of the moment she heard shots. “None of us know what’s going to happen.”
“A hundred percent, I thought it was a mass shooting,” says Arta Gjonbalaj. “We’re all going to die.
Gjonbalaj and Westafer were trapped with approximately 30 other people inside a Trader Joe’s in Los Angeles, when a beautiful July 2018 Saturday afternoon was shattered by the sound of a car wreck and gunshots. Gene Atkins, who police say had shot his grandmother and then kidnapped his girlfriend, had led police on a chase when he crashed his car outside of Trader Joe’s and exchanged gunfire with arriving officers as he entered the store. The store manager, Melyda Corado, was caught in the crossfire and killed by a police bullet. Those left in the store scrambled for cover.
“The gunshots had gotten louder,” recalls MaryLinda Moss. “Somebody yelled, ‘The gunman is in the store.’”
“It looked like a murder scene. There was blood everywhere,” Gjonbalaj says.
“I’m sort of like rerunning every single previous mass shooting in my head over and over again – because that’s what I thought was happening,” Cory Page says.
Members of the Los Angeles Police Department surrounded the store, including the SWAT team, which took strategic positions on buildings in the sight lines of the entrances. Then the alleged gunman spotted a sharpshooter on the roof of the cheese store next door. The gunman, on the phone with police, demanded the sniper move.
“He says, ‘If you don’t get them off the roof, I’m going to shoot somebody. I’m going to shoot somebody in 5, 4, 3, 2….’” Westafer says.
Atkins has been charged with the death of the store manager and 50 other felony counts, including attempted murder and kidnapping. He awaits trial.
48 HOURS: “Live to Tell: Standoff at Trader Joe’s” takes viewers inside the action and features the hostages telling their gripping and emotional stories of the minute-by-minute actions they took to survive, how one of the hostages knew how to talk with the alleged gunman, and how their lives have unfolded since.
“Live to Tell” is a short-run series from the producers of 48 HOURS delivering first-person accounts of extraordinary people who refuse to give up when facing possible death. 48 HOURS: “Live to Tell: Standoff at Trader Joe’s” is produced by Chris Young Ritzen. Mead Stone is the producer-editor. Michelle Fanucci is the development producer. Gabriella Demirdjian is the associate producer. Doreen Schechter, Gary Winter, Joan Adelman, Maria Barrow and Marlon Disla are the editors. Patti Aronofsky is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the series creator and executive producer.