Store Manager Killed In L.A. Trader Joe’s Hostage Crisis

Photo by: Christian Monterosa

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A feud between a man and his grandmother over his girlfriend staying at the grandmother’s home exploded into violence that ultimately led to him taking dozens of people hostage inside a Los Angeles supermarket, a relative said Sunday.

Investigators believe Gene Evin Atkins, 28, shot his grandmother several times and wounded his girlfriend at their South Los Angeles home on Saturday afternoon before he led police on a chase, while exchanging gunfire with officers, crashed into a pole outside the Trader Joe’s in the city’s Silver Lake section and ran inside.

Atkins was booked Sunday on suspicion of murder after an employee was killed as he ran into the supermarket, police said.

His cousin, Charlene Egland, told The Associated Press that he had been arguing with his grandmother — who had raised him since he was 7 years old — “on and off for about two or three weeks” over his girlfriend staying at elder woman’s home.

“She didn’t want the girl over there anymore,” Egland said.

On Saturday, Atkins’ grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Madison, 76, was walking back into the home and told her grandson “he needs to turn some of them TVs off” when he shot her, she said.

Egland said she heard about six gunshots before another cousin came running from the porch and shouted to Egland, “I think Gene shot my mama!”

Egland said she ran to call 911 and waited for an ambulance to arrive. At the same time, police said Atkins stole his grandmother’s car and forced his girlfriend into the vehicle.

Officers tracked the car using a stolen-vehicle tracking system and tried to stop the man in Hollywood, but he refused to pull over, police said. During the chase, he fired at officers, shooting out the back window of his car.

More gunfire ensued before Atkins crashed into a pole outside the supermarket. The man exchanged gunfire with police again and that’s when a 27-year-old Trader Joe’s employee, Melyda Corado, was shot and killed, Police Chief Michel Moore said. Officers escorted the girlfriend from the vehicle.

Customers and employees frantically dove for cover and barricaded themselves inside storerooms and bathrooms as bullets fired by police shattered the store’s glass doors.

As he heard gunfire, Sean Gerace, who was working in the back of the supermarket, grabbed several of his co-workers and the group made their way into an upstairs storage area. He grabbed a folding ladder and tossed it out a window, helping his colleagues escape to safety, he told KNBC-TV.

“I grabbed an emergency ladder, barricaded the hallway, grabbed a weapon, put the ladder out the window and just tried to get the attention of the SWAT officer,” Gerace told the television station.

About three hours later, Atkins agreed to handcuff himself and walked out the front door, surrounded by four of the hostages. He was being held on $ 2 million bail Sunday and it wasn’t clear if he had an attorney to comment on the allegations.

His grandmother was taken to a hospital in critical condition and police said she had been shot seven times, but Egland, who visited Madison at the hospital on Sunday, said she had only been shot three times, had undergone surgery and her condition was improving.

Atkins, who has two daughters, bounced between several jobs, including working as a security guard, but had been repeatedly fired, Egland said. His license to work as a security guard expired in November 2017, according to state records. It was not clear whether the particular license he possessed would have allowed him to legally carry a firearm.

His grandmother had also tried to help him find employment and “was just trying to make him do better,” Egland said.

Atkins never grew violent toward his grandmother before, Egland said, but she started to grow concerned about him over the last several weeks because he seemed upset and distant.

“He didn’t seem right to me,” Egland said. “I’m just devastated.”

On Sunday, grieving family members, co-workers and customers remembered Corado, the Trader Joe’s worker, as lively, hardworking and always smiling. A makeshift memorial of flowers, candles and notes grew on the sidewalk outside of the store on Sunday.

“I’m sad to say she didn’t make it. My baby sister. My world,” her brother, Albert Corado said on Twitter.

Trader Joe’s said the store — known by customers as a neighborhood hangout with great customer service — would remain closed for the foreseeable future to give their employees time to process and grieve.

“Yesterday marks the saddest day in Trader Joe’s history as we mourn the loss of one our own,” company spokeswoman Kenya Friend-Daniel said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with her family, and our Crew Members and customers who experienced this terrifying and unimaginable ordeal.”


Associated Press writers Christopher Weber and Robert Jablon contributed to this report.






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IAB’s NewFronts L.A. Edition to Feature Streamy Brand Awards for Advertising

When the Digital Content NewFronts West makes its debut this fall in L.A., it will include an additional element the content-pitchfest organizers hope will lure more attendees: the Streamy Brand Awards, recognizing branded content and digital-video advertising. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), the trade group that runs the NewFronts, has entered into a pact with […]



Raw: Memorial For Slain Rapper Packs L.A. Street

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We Did a Photo Shoot With 2 of Our Coolest L.A. Readers

Between bringing you a curated shopping experience and showing you how to wear the season’s best trends, there’s one aspect of our job as Who What Wear editors that we really love: connecting with our community. Whether we’re asking you to share how your hometown influences your style or letting you teach us how to wear the season’s trickiest trends, we’re always keeping an eye on what our readers are up to. (Want to stay connected with us? Be sure to use #WhoWhatWearing on Instagram so we can see your outfit posts, and join our Who What Wear Insiders Facebook group, where we chat about everything from insider shopping tips to must-have product finds.)

But we wanted to take things offline with our readers, too, so last month, we put out a casting call to work on a styled shoot with members of our L.A. community. Enter the Brooks sisters, a duo nailing it with their modern approach to vintage-inspired style and a unique ability to both emulate one another yet stand apart as twins. Chrystian and Chrystal have cultivated personal styles all their own as they’ve grown up together, but each plays a complementary role to the other—always on the same wavelength, as they say.

In their fun photo shoot, we brought spring’s most vibrant looks to life, from translucent PVC to soft shades of lavender. Each look explores our April theme of “freestyle,” the idea of dressing outside the trend cycle and really owning your own style. This idea is evident in how the sisters embraced each of the three spring styles, whether it was a play on pastels, textures, or sporty tailoring, on their own individual terms.

Seeing each sister’s style come to life on set was easily the best part. Between shots, we sat down with the Louisiana natives to talk about their style influences, their distinctive tastes, and what they love most about being twins. “Even though we do wear the same clothes, we wear it differently,” Chrystian explains. “I like to dress it up. She likes to dress is down.”

It’s the influences they do share, like getting raid their grandmother’s closet growing up, that have shaped their approach to fashion. While Chrystian gravitates more toward long, flowing silhouettes and Chrystal’s style bends to a tailored and at times sporty aesthetic, both sisters agree that they share a deep appreciation for vintage clothing.

There’s no surprise, then, that their style to be quite so personal. For Chrystian, it comes down to finding The One while vintage-shopping: “Whatever is different, whatever I haven’t seen anyone else wear, I go for it.”

As both the Brooks sisters prove, “freestyle” is all bout pulling inspiration from unique and really personal places. In fact, the first time they remember being interested in clothing was going to their grandmother’s house. “She has everything—flashy clothes and all different coats,” Chrystal shares. “We probably started noticing how unique her wardrobe was when we were back in middle school. We would go and try on her clothes and play dress-up.”

You could say we had them do something similar on set—or at least it felt that way. The first looks involved exaggerated tailoring and a subtle nod to athleisure’s current stronghold in the trend cycle. This was Chrystal’s favorite of the day: “It was oversize, and I always find I like oversize pieces.” On the other hand, it was a pastel purple look—the last of the day—that was Chrystian’s favorite: “I enjoyed being styled in different looks that I normally wouldn’t pull of.” Lastly, a play on see-through and plastic pieces managed to push both sisters out of their typical sartorial realms (but looked pretty amazing, if we do say so ourselves).

In the fashion world, there’s a long-held fascination with twin style, something the Olsen sisters’ omnipresent influence certainly played a role in shaping. But it’s another stylish sets of twins that the Brooks sisters cite as a major source of inspiration: Cipriana Quann and Tk Wonder. (Kali Uchis and Kelsey Lu are other big influences.) The rare yet marvelous thing about being a twin? “Having someone who knows me well and can help me grow,” Chrystian tells us. For Chrystal, the best part about being a twin is “knowing I have someone to go for anything. We teach each other new things every day.”

We can see how something as expressive as what you wear gets magnified in twos—getting to double up on one trend means each sister will interpret it in a way that’s all her own. Not unlike the way a yin-yang sign balances seemingly disparate elements in a complementary way. Or, more simply, double the fun.

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Elon Musk To Launch Drive-In Restaurant in L.A.

Elon Musk is exploring the concept of a retro-drive in restaurant at his all-new Tesla Supercharger station in Los Angeles. In the following tweet below, the Tesla CEO shares his ambition:

While light-hearted and exciting, there is a strategy behind the foray. The all-new Supercharger stations will see a captive customer base anywhere from 15 minutes to a full hour. That said, Tesla owners will have to keep entertained to sustain customer satisfaction – an important success metric for company growth. Logically, food is a great way to keep people satisfied. Up until now, Tesla has been trying to build Supercharger stations around existing cafes and even teasing special areas for food trucks. But with larger charging stations and the space for expanding amenities, the automaker can leverage the opportunity to launch its own restaurant concept rolling it out to all future expansion.

The announcement follows hype of a Tesla Model X Save a Semi-Truck in the Snow. As the inventor continues to drive innovation and culture, it’ll be interesting to see not just how this drive-in idea evolves, but how quickly it’ll launch since with Musk it’s never really a matter of “if” but “when.”


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The Cute New Bags Every L.A. Girl Is Buying Today

You’ve probably heard us wax poetic about designer Haley Boyd before—we’ve obsessed over her inspiring Instagram account and shared the latest launches from her L.A.-based shoe brand, Marais. Now, she’s giving us something new to love: handbags. Marais just launched its first-ever bag designs, and we guarantee you’ll love them as much as the brand’s perfect shoes.

Like Marais’s sandals and ankle boots, the new bags are made in Los Angeles under fair labor conditions. The sleek suede bucket bags come in two colors, and you can get coordinating slides, sandals, and ankle boots in the same perfect-for-fall hues. We’ll take one of each, please.

Scroll down to shop Marais’s new bags and matching shoes.

Next up, shop the $ 35 leggings all your friends will ask you about

Opening Image: @haleboyd

Available in sizes 5 to 11. 

Available in sizes 5 to 11. 

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Why the Saints Need to Run Over L.A., Paxton Lynch and How Not to Develop a Developmental QB, and Why Miami’s Offense Has a Chance at Foxboro

Also, Nathan Peterman as William Henry Harrison, ninth President of the United States, Seattle loses the one silver lining to losing Richard Sherman, those postseason TV ratings are gonna be ugly, time to rethink offsetting penalties, and the atrocious return of Bocephus to MNF. Plus, musical guest Creedence Clearwater Revival!

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Of Course Hermès Had the Chicest Pop-Up Store in L.A.

When Hermès launches a pop-up shop, the expectation is that it will be inimitably chic. What might not be expected is that it draws inspiration from a retro laundromat. The interactive shop, dubbed Hermèsmatic, has been springing up in cities like New York, Washington D.C., and Nashville. The Westfield Century City mall in L.A. is the final stop on the tour.

The 1200-square-foot space is a dip-dye scarf concept shop, boasting shiny orange washing machines, walls lined with Hermès-branded boxes that resemble detergent, and videos demonstrating how to give your worn or vintage Hermès scarves new life by using a dip-dye washing technique. If one’s not feeling like getting in on the DIY, visitors can also purchase a silk scarf from the dip-dye collection. Hermèsmatic closes up shop Nov. 19, so if you’re in L.A. this weekend is your last chance to check it out.

Keep scrolling to check out photos of the Hermèsmatic pop-up.

Next up, see how Hermès wants you to tie your scarf.

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Baseball is Hot! World Series Opens in L.A. Amid Record Temperatures

(LOS ANGELES) — The fastballs aren’t the only things hitting triple digits at the World Series.

This Fall Classic is going to feel like summer.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros will meet on what’s expected to be a 100-degree Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, beginning possibly the warmest World Series ever.

An October heat wave slugged Southern California on Monday, with the temperature reaching 104 degrees shortly after lunchtime in Chavez Ravine. It was still blazing when the Dodgers and Astros showed up at Dodger Stadium for brief late-afternoon workouts that stretched into the early evening.

The heat isn’t likely to bother the players much: Both of these warm-weather teams are used to sweating it out all summer long.

“Love it,” said Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, a Southern California native and the co-MVP of the NL Championship Series. “I’d rather be playing in the heat than in the snow, so it’s great.”

Still, the players didn’t take the field Monday until the sun was partly blocked by the left field grandstands, and they took batting practice after sunset — when it was still a toasty 94 degrees. Similar heat is expected Tuesday.

“This weather is always beautiful,” said Dallas Keuchel, the Astros’ Game 1 starter. “It’s that dry heat, so it’s going to be hotter than normal to play. At the same time, I like to sweat. I like to get that perspiration and make sure I have a firm grip on the ball. It’s the World Series, so if it’s a little bit hotter than usual, that’s fine with me. There’s no place I’d rather be.”

Game 1 has a chance to be the warmest World Series game on record. Back in 2001, the temperature was around 94 degrees in Phoenix for the Oct. 27 World Series opener between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees. The Chase Field roof was left open, and the temperature had dropped to 76 degrees by game time.

Some forecasts expect Los Angeles to be hotter than 94 degrees for the first pitch at 8 p.m. EDT on Tuesday — and there’s no roof on Dodger Stadium.

“Never would I have expected that at the end of October, going into November,” Dodgers center fielder Chris Taylor said. “That’s LA for you, though.”

The Dodgers are in the World Series for the first time since 1988, and the temperature feels just fine to the boys in blue.

“Everything is hot in LA!” Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen said with a grin. “The Dodgers are hot. Everybody is excited. It’s been a while since Kirk Gibson. Of course it’s hot today.”

The Astros are also used to a little bit of heat — and in East Texas, they’ve got humidity that can wear out most Californians.

“It’ll be hot, but I don’t think anybody is going to be thinking about the weather too much,” Houston right-hander Will Harris said. “I’m pretty sure our training staff will be on us with making sure we’re hydrated, and they may have some cold rags in the dugout.”

The 56,000 Dodgers fans will be more vulnerable to the elements when they crowd into their venerable stadium to witness the end of their team’s 29-year World Series drought. Dodgers outfielder Curtis Granderson offered advice to fans and teammates alike.

“Hydration is going to be key, and trying to cool off is going to be key,” Granderson said. “But I think if you would poll everybody, everybody would definitely like it to be a little bit warmer than they would be cold.”

The World Series hasn’t visited the three open-air ballparks in the southern half of California since 2002, when the then-Anaheim Angels won it all.

The sun is scheduled to set about one hour after the first pitch in each of the first two games, so the heat will drop after that. But the temperatures could even knock out the marine layer — the thick air mass caused by cooling temperatures near the Pacific Ocean and often blamed for fly balls falling short of the fence from San Diego to Oakland.

“I think it’s going to benefit the hitters,” Dodgers utilityman Kike Hernandez said. “The hotter it is here, the better the ball carries.”

The Astros are familiar with a whole different level of heat combined with humidity during their long, hot summers in Houston, but the roof is usually closed at Minute Maid Park, where the air-conditioned temperature is always around 73 balmy degrees. The weekend forecast in Houston calls for temperatures perhaps topping 80 degrees.

Yet there’s no denying some players will be slightly more comfortable in the heat than others: Turner and Keuchel are among several regulars on each team who sport thick, lustrous beards.

So would a heat wave be enough to send Keuchel looking for relief in a barbershop?

“If it’s hot enough for four wins, I’ll shave it for sure,” Keuchel said with a laugh.

Sports – TIME


How a Formerly Homeless L.A. Publicist Uses Her Network to Increase Her Net Worth

Publicist Kiki Ayers

When looking at publicist Kiki Ayers, the last thing you would suspect is that she overcame homelessness, not once, but twice. This first generation college graduate of Howard University is a force to be reckoned with.

Photo credit: @thecanvas.jpg


Her hard work and determination earned her a career in Hollywood as an entertainment reporter. She has interviewed the likes of Kevin Hart, Will Ferrell, Ben Affleck, Nas, Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah, and more.

While this accomplishment seems like the definition of ultimate success, she is not stopping there. With her connections in media, she was inspired to take a chance and start her very own public relations firm, Ayers Publicity.

She started the company a little over a year ago after Russell Simmons’ All Def Digital brought her on board to lead PR for their first movie, Major Deal. She officially got her L.L.C. and signed clients—including All Def Digital, Ellae Lisque, Haha Davis, DJ Duffey from Basketball Wives, Cash Money artist Sy Ari Da Kid, YouTube star “Megz,” and comedic actor Juhahn Jones—this February.

Black Enterprise caught up with Ayers to learn more about her career journey to becoming a publicist and her most recent chapter involving business ownership.

What education and experience did you need to prepare you for your public relations career?

I didn’t go to school for PR; I went for journalism. I’m a self-taught PR professional. I learned everything 100% hands-on.

As a journalist, the main people I work with are publicists so I learned by watching them. I learned how to draft a press release by reading over the 1,000 that have come through my email inbox. I learned how to get press on red carpets by reporting on hundreds of red carpets.

Being a journalist in addition to a publicist gives me a huge advantage because I don’t have to work hard to build “connections” with media. My best friends are all also journalists and reporters. It wasn’t until I started utilizing the people closest to me that I realized how much support I have. The range of publications is amazing too. I have friends at publications like The Shade Room and Complex and then I have friends at Forbes and Entertainment Tonight.

Were public relations always a part of your career plan?

Not intentionally. I recently realized for years I’ve been doing PR for friends but I wasn’t thinking of it as PR. I was thinking of it as genuinely helping my friends.

2016 was the hardest year for me because it’s when I made the transition from corporate to independent. Everything I feared happened. I told myself I would never be homeless again and in 2016 that happened. I told myself I would never be broke again and through all of 2016 that happened.

If you were to ask me a year ago if I planned on starting a PR company, I would have definitely said no only because it wasn’t in the vision and it wasn’t something I thought I could do.

How do you set yourself apart in such a competitive industry?

By focusing on quality, not quantity. I get literally hundreds of client requests every day but I don’t want to work with just anyone. I care about character and work ethic. Followers, fame, and money can go just as easily as it came. I look for people with star quality and help them get into publications on their wish list all in the first month.

I take the time to pitch everyone differently, and each pitch is catered to the publication I’m pitching to. A huge part of that is taking time to research the publication you’re pitching to. I spend hours on hours pitching clients. I really put in the work to take them to new levels.

I never want to take someone’s money unless I know I can do something for them. A lot of people tell me horror stories about PR all the time. I want every client to feel secure about having a publicist.

What advice would you give to others who are interested in a career in the public relations industry?

The best advice I can give is just to start. A lot of people won’t take that first step because of fear. There [are] so many days I want to quit but then something amazing happens. It’s definitely an industry that doesn’t work unless you do.

The biggest misconception is that you can only learn in a classroom. You can learn through Google, by being hands-on, and by researching but you can’t learn until you start.

What’s next for Kiki Ayers and Ayers Publicity?

More speaking engagements, bigger clients, and making dreams come true for current clients. I’m trying to spread the word as much as possible about my entrepreneurial journey. I’m on my way to making my first million by 2020.

Career – Black Enterprise


L.A. Clippers and Kaiser Permanente Host Total Health Camp for Boys & Girls Club Keiki

HONOLULU — More than 75 keiki sprinted, jumped, dribbled and shot hoops with Los Angeles Clippers’ Sindarius Thornwell and Jawun Evans at the Kaiser Permanente Total Health Camp at Spalding Clubhouse recently. Sponsored by Kaiser Permanente Hawaii in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii, the free fitness event was held to teach children about the importance of total health — caring for the body, mind and spirit.

Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii members ages 7 to 13 took turns rotating between different activity stations. Kaiser Permanente physical therapists taught students about injury prevention and warm-up exercises, health educators discussed the importance of healthy hydration and eating, and L.A. Clippers players guided participants in shooting and passing drills. Participants also received healthy snacks, mini basketballs and water bottles as a reminder to incorporate healthy habits into their lifestyle. photo of young boy dribbling a basketball

“Embracing a healthy lifestyle at a young age is critical to the physical, mental and emotional health and development of our keiki,” said Chris K. Hause vice president, Marketing, Sales and Business Development, Kaiser Permanente Hawaii. “We’re grateful for our partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii, and the support of the NBA and L.A. Clippers, for allowing us to promote total health in the community.”

“Participating in physical activities and learning about how fun fitness is important to our young members,” said Tim Motts, chief executive officer, Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii. “By engaging with them and showing them how to stay active, we’re helping them develop healthy habits that will stay with them throughout their lives.”

About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945 by Henry J. Kaiser, and in Hawaii since 1958, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente Hawaii is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education, community health, and providing patient-centered total health for the people and communities of Hawaii. For more information, go to:

The post L.A. Clippers and Kaiser Permanente Host Total Health Camp for Boys & Girls Club Keiki appeared first on Kaiser Permanente Share.

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Meet Muna, the Queer L.A. Pop Trio Now on Tour With Harry Styles

"I really care that our music is a story of growth," Muna singer Katie Gavin tells Rolling Stone in an August phone chat. Fittingly, the thoughtful L.A. pop outfit, also including guitarist Josette Maskin and keyboardist-guitarist Naomi McPherson, is in the midst of a major real-world growth spurt. Currently opening for Harry Styles on his first solo world tour, the band – whose

This article originally appeared on Meet Muna, the Queer L.A. Pop Trio Now on Tour With Harry Styles

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‘MY SHOT’ Antique Portrait Exhibition Opens in L.A. Alongside HAMILTON

MY SHOT Portraits from Hamilton, a collection of art photos of members of the original Broadway cast of Hamilton, including Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom, Jr., Renee Elise Goldsberry and Daveed Diggs, will be on display at the Diane Rosenstein Gallery 831 N. Highland Ave. in Los Angeles from today, August 15, through August 19. Featured Content


Lauren Conrad Selling L.A. Home for $4.5 Million While Retaining Laguna Beach Property

Lauren Conrad, Home, Real EstateIt looks like Lauren Conrad has had enough of L.A.
Conrad and her husband William Tell’s 4,300-square-foot, six-bedroom and five-bathroom home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of…

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Amber Heard and Elon Musk Step Out in L.A.: ‘It’s Definitely Not a Casual Relationship,’ Says Source

After spending some family time with Elon Musk in his native Australia, Amber Heard and the tech mogul were spotted together back in Los Angeles over the weekend.

The couple, who had spent time together Down Under last month while Heard, 31, filmed Aquaman, had lunch at Sweet Butter in Los Angeles on Friday. “They were very casual and dined in,” an onlooker tells PEOPLE. “Elon had his arm around Amber as they waited in line.”

The eyewitness adds, “They ordered at the counter and sat down outside to wait for their salads. Elon paid and was pretty chatty. It was his first time at the restaurant so he asked questions about the menu. They were both very friendly and seemed happy.”

Dating rumors began swirling last year when Heard and Musk, 45, were spotted out together several times amid their respective divorces — Heard’s contentious divorce from Johnny Depp was finalized in January, and Musk filed for divorce from his second wife, Westworld actress Talulah Riley, in January 2015.

From Coinage: See Where 6 Stars Were Before They Were Famous

“They are getting more serious,” says a source close to the couple. “It’s definitely not a casual relationship. That’s not Elon. He doesn’t do anything casually.”

The source confirms that the Tesla founder “isn’t dating anyone else” and “is still very fascinated by Amber and loves her company. He seems very happy with her. She is spending a lot of time with his kids.”

While working in Australia, Heard spent a day sightseeing with Musk’s five sons. The actress shared a few snaps from the day out, showing the group goofing off together at the Sydney Opera House. Musk’s sons — Damian, Kai, Saxon, Xavier, Griffin — are from his marriage to his first wife, Justine. (The couple had another son, Nevada, who died at 10 weeks.)

The billionaire also shared photos from the day on his own Instagram account. In one snap, Musk is seen with his arm around Heard as one of his sons shows the couple something on his phone.

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Ex L.A. County Sheriff Sentenced to 3 Years for Obstructing Federal Jail Investigation

Los Angeles County’s former top cop was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison on Friday, in connection with what authorities said was a scheme to obstruct a federal corruption and civil rights investigation, PEOPLE confirms.

Lee Baca, the 74-year-old former sheriff of Los Angeles County, was ordered to begin serving his sentence by July 25. His attorney said he will appeal and maintains his innocence.

“Mr. Baca’s fall from such heights is tragic for so many reasons,” U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson said at his sentencing, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Baca’s behavior is “so at odds with the public image he carefully crafted,” Anderson said.

Baca was found guilty in March of conspiracy and obstruction charges and making false statement to federal investigators. He was accused of lying to them and overseeing efforts to obstruct a federal probe of corruption and civil rights violations at L.A. county jails.

“Rather than fulfill his sworn duty to uphold the law and protect the public, Lee Baca made a decision to protect what he viewed as his empire, and then he took actions in an effort to simply protect himself,” Acting United States United States Attorney Sandra R. Brown said in a statement, obtained by PEOPLE, following the sentence.

“He wore the badge, but ultimately, he failed the department and the public’s trust,” Brown said. “Today’s sentence demonstrates that no one is above the law — not even the leader of the largest municipal police agency in the nation.”

Current L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said in a statement that he is “confident in the justice system and how law enforcement and its leadership are held accountable to the laws of our country and to the people we are entrusted to serve.”

“The trials and the resulting convictions have been difficult for the men and women of the Sheriff’s Department,” McDonnell said.

Defense Responds: ‘Conviction Will Be Reversed’

In a statement to PEOPLE, Baca’s defense attorney, Nathan Hochman, described him as a tireless public servant who had been unjustly covnicted.

“For over 48 years, Sheriff Lee Baca served the people of Los Angeles County with all his heart, his soul and his energy 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Hochman said.

He continued, “The court in the second trial improperly excluded key defense evidence establishing Mr. Baca’s innocence. When the appellate court hears all the evidence in the case, something which the second jury did not, we are confident that Mr. Baca’s conviction will be reversed and we will be back for a third trial.”

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

Baca left his top post in 2014 after federal agents got wind of a plot by some of Baca’s top subordinates to conceal a federal jail informant from his FBI handler when they learned the jails were being investigated.

Federal authorities said that Baca ordered a criminal investigation into the agents looking into the jails, and his subordinates threatened to arrest the lead investigator on the case.

The obstruction case netted nine other members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, including Baca’s right-hand man, then-undersheriff Paul Tanaka, who was sentenced last year to five years in federal prison.

Under Baca’s leadership, the sheriff’s department was also not devoid of celebrity scandal.

The department was accused of giving Mel Gibson special treatment after the actor’s notorious drunk driving incident in July 2006. Those claims were followed by a lawsuit by L.A. County sheriff’s deputy James Mee, who alleged he was subject to disciplinary actions and overlooked for promotions after he complained to his superiors about Gibson’s treatment.

In addition, Mee claimed, his superiors ordered him to delete portions of Gibson’s arrest report “covering up the anti-Semitic posture of Mr. Gibson, ” the lawsuit stated.

Gibson had close ties to the sheriff’s department, Mee alleged, and was a friend of Baca and other top officials.

The actor also lent his time and name to various law enforcement initiatives, according to Mee’s suit, which a sheriff’s spokesman “categorically” denied. It was settled in 2012 for $ 50,000, according to the Los Angeles Times.

A watchdog for the sheriff’s department later “found that Gibson was given special treatment, including being given a ride to a tow yard by a sheriff’s sergeant,” the Times reported.

Baca was further scrutinized for his treatment of Paris Hilton, who was released early from jail in 2007 following a probation violation.

He defended that decision as medically necessary for Hilton and the result of jail overcrowding.

Fashion Deals Update:

Be Thankful You’re Not in This L.A. Traffic Jam

This video will stress you out.

Lifestyle – Esquire


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Neil LaBute Q&A: The Controversial Playwright Talks About His L.A. Theater Takeover


Fans of safe and saccharine theater in Los Angeles better run and hide this summer because acclaimed and controversial playwright Neil LaBute doesn’t just have one production currently in town — he has two!

Vilified and labeled as a misanthrope and misogynist thanks to his unflinching brand of art, indeed his plays and films have shocked many, including films In the Company of Men, Your Friends & Neighbors, Nurse Betty and The Shape of Things to Come. It’s interesting to have LaBute’s unrelenting drama, often filled with self-absorbed characters and very poignant and disturbingly social themes, takeover Los Angeles theater.

Continuing with his beauty trilogy in Reasons to Be Pretty at the Geffen Playhouse, LaBute takes on society’s ongoing fixation with beauty and in particular one man’s inability to say the right thing — ever. When Greg makes an innocuous, off-handed remark about his girlfriend Steph, it triggers a battle by which their relationship will forever be defined. Tony nominated for Best Play, Reasons to Be Pretty continues a series that includes The Shape of Things, Fat Pig (a previous Geffen Playhouse hit) and Reasons to Be Happy.

Meanwhile, across town on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, LaBute’s personal In a Dark Dark House focuses on the many effects of sexual abuse and the way society might be expected to react to abused victims.

While LaBute has recently directed episodes of AMC’s “Hell on Wheels” as well as the good natured ensemble comedy Death at a Funeral possibly giving way to a kinder and gentler LaBute, it’s his taut dramas that have caused critics and some audiences to label him as a pariah.

Who can forget Aaron Eckhart’s character Chad in In the Company of Men hatefully blather, “Women. Nice ones, the most frigid of the race, it doesn’t matter in the end. Inside they’re all the same meat and gristle and hatred just simmering.”

Or that other gem of his, “Never trust anything that can bleed for a week and not die.”

You can see why LaBute is a lightning rod, even if the man himself doesn’t.

Your name and work evoke a strong gut reaction. Do you consider no reaction the worst kind of reaction?
I probably do. I would think just about anybody would feel that way. We’re taught at some age to always want positive reaction but it makes sense when you’re out there asking questions, which is a big part of what playwrights are supposed to do, not always having answers but at least asking questions. I think, depending on the questions, it’s very important to take the temperature of people. If people think you have nothing to say or you’re of little interest that would probably be the worst.

If everybody were to love your work, is that not the reaction you would want either?
I’m not the kid in class who only wants negative attention, that’s certainly not me. I’ll take nothing but positive attention, that’s OK. I feel that I’ve had almost negative attention for some things. I know what it feels like on both ends. You’re always trying to connect and tell stories that are different than what everyone else has. I’m always looking to connect with an audience, and yet, sometimes it’s negative but through that negativity sometimes you’ve left them with something to think about. I think both sides of that can be useful.

In college, some of your plays where shut down immediately after their premieres. How do you define success–just opening?
Getting in front of an audience, in this world, is the requirement for the endgame, at least for theater. Once you’ve written something you’re part of the way there. You do need to get in front of an audience. To have a connection with an audience is ultimately the goal.

With everything you’ve accomplished, is there still room for you to grow as an artist?
Of course, that’s why I probably go back to teach as often as possible, just because you learn a ton from teaching people. There are so many parts of this world that I’m interested in. I get more interested in editing as I work in film; I haven’t done much television and that world is new to me. Broadway is still a creature that I’m weary of. Event at my age, there are a lot of aspects that I have to learn or try to fail at.

Your name sparks a reaction. What’s the biggest misconception about you?
The ones that I hear upon meeting people sometimes are, ‘You’re much nicer than I thought you’d be.’ I wonder what it was exactly they were thinking. They imagine you’re the worst. They never seem to think you’re the best at what you can imagine. You were able to think of something, therefore, that must be you. Also, for the last seventeen – eighteen years, there’s been this label of misogyny that started with In the Company of Men, that’s a hard one to kick because people label you and once they’ve done that, they make it very hard for you. If they see something else, they’ll say, that’s no as misogynistic. For a movie that so many people actually saw as being a critical essay of men, being labeled misogynistic I thought was strange.

Is it fair that 17 years later people so closely identify you with that film?
I don’t think it would hurt to reassess things every five years or so. That would be nice of people to check in on that sort of thing. I know how it happens but it’s a bummer when you don’t agree with it.

Can you talk about the power of the written word and what the various outlets mean to you?

Theater is still a place that allows you to say anything you want to say and take on anything that is of interest to you. There is no taboo, not for me at least. There’s nothing that shouldn’t be taken on.

Film, I think, is a medium that people still see as a more popular form of entertainment. Television, I think, is becoming a great place for writers and storytellers. I like this idea of telling multiple stories about a set of characters. I always turn the page and write about a new group of people. For a writer, that’s a really interesting task to take on.

You have two shows currently playing in Los Angeles. What’s that like?
They’re two very different ones as well. I’m really excited by the people who are in them and also the directors.

What originally inspired these two productions?

You never know. I ended up with this third play in this trilogy about beauty; and I knew I wanted to do something about beauty and the way that we’ll change ourselves or change for others. In a Dark Dark House was just a story that came to me, not thinking about my own past so much as filtering what I knew about the lives that these characters have and then wanting to tell a story about siblings.

You’ve called In a Dark Dark House very personal, yet this version was tweaked from its original form when it premiered in New York. Is it still as personal now?
I think so. The work that was done honed the structure and I moved things around and ultimately I think this version is the best structure of the play. It’s not autobiographical but it’s touching on things that were close to my life.

So plays are never finite?
Oh God no! I just wrote a new monologue for Amber Tamblyn in Reasons to Be Pretty. She had some questions and thoughts and it led me to write something. They’re finished for now until somebody opens the book again and you start working on it again.

Reasons to Be Pretty marks your fourth collaboration with the Geffen Playhouse. What do you like about that theater?
It’s nice to have a home somewhere. Because you can spread yourself so far around and with so many people, it’s always great to go back to a place or group of people who you know and work with. It’s great when the Geffen is interested in me doing something again. I love the space but I also love the people who run the place.

Are you happy playing in intimate theaters or do you want Broadway or the Pantages, which is the big theater in Los Angeles?
I tend to write things that are often pretty small cast and I love small theaters. That said, there are things you write that you think could be for Broadway but I tend not to think or write in those terms. Sadly, what usually drives people to think something would be good for Broadway is the fact that they have some star who might be interested. Rare is the play that I’ve written that I think it can only fit on a stage for a thousand people. They’re often very intimate character studies.

You always get great talent in your plays, from David Duchovny to Ed Harris. What attracts big name actors to your work or is it that they just have to work?
It’s probably a mix and that’s OK for me. I think actors do, at some point, get a sense of a person who like actors and writes for actors, and is interested in them. I certainly feel that I’ve always liked actors and they get a buzz off me that says that. I never tend to write for people, as many good actors as I’ve had, I always have written just for characters and then good actors will appear. But like you said, some actors just want to work.

What do you hope audiences take away from a production of yours?
I just hope that there’s something that they find there, whether it is characters or themes. I tend not to write about themes so much, but I love the idea that somebody in today’s world, because we’ve created this kind of speed that we devour information these days, that any time that somebody goes to see your work and thinks about if for any length of time is a total victory.

Both Neil LaBute productions play through August 31. In a Dark Dark House plays at the Matrix Theatre, and Reasons to Be Pretty plays at the Geffen Playhouse.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Eckhart
Entertainment – The Huffington Post
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