Crime & Justice

LAPD: Witnesses, video tape help ID suspect in South LA store clerk murder

Police have identified Eric Atkinson as a suspect in the murder of a South L.A. store clerk.
Police have identified Eric Atkinson as a suspect in the murder of a South L.A. store clerk.
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A 31-year-old alleged gang member has been charged with the murder of a South L.A. store clerk, the Los Angeles District Attorney announced Friday. 

Police accuse Eric Atkinson of shooting and killing Martha Sanchez – a wife and mother of five –who was working at the Happy Bargain 99 Cents store during a robbery on September 17.

LAPD Det. Eric Crosson said Atkinson fled on foot with $300 to $400, but was caught on tape.

’The October 23rd press conference that we did where we released surveillance footage of the suspect generated numerous telephone calls, and with witness interviews that we did we were able to obtain additional information that got us to the point where we were able to file a case today,” Crosson said.

The detective said Atkinson has been in custody since October 9, when he was arrested for having narcotics during a parole compliance check. Atkinson was also identified as a suspect in a "criminal threats" report that was taken a few days before the murder, Crosson said. That case was filed against him while he was in custody on the narcotics violation. 

Prosecutors have filed one count of murder with the special circumstances of robbery and personal use of a firearm against Atkinson for the murder of Sanchez. The charge makes him eligible for the death penalty; they will decide later whether to seek it.

Atkinson is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center. Prosecutors will ask that he be held without bail, said Deputy District Attorney Larry Droeger, assistant head deputy of the Hardcore Gang Division, according to a statement.