LOS ANGELES (AP) – A 14-year-old teenager was shopping for Christmas clothes with her mother last week when the couple heard screams and hid in a locker room, where the girl was shot dead by the Los Angeles police after an officer fired a gun at a suspect and a bullet pierced a wall, the family said Tuesday.
Valentina Orellana-Peralta died in her mother’s arms last Thursday at a Burlington store in the North Hollywood neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley. Her family said the teenager loved skateboarding and dreamed of becoming an engineer to build robots.
After screams erupted in the store on Christmas Eve, the teenager locked the locker room door.
“We were sitting on a seat, holding each other, praying, when something hit my daughter, Valentina, and threw us to the ground,” Soledad Peralta said on Tuesday. “And my daughter died in my arms. I could not do anything.
The teenager’s family stood outside the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters on Tuesday, next to a large photo of Orellana-Peralta surrounded by flowers, to seek justice and remember their daughter.
Speaking in Spanish and choking back tears as sirens howled in the background in downtown Los Angeles, they said they left Chile to flee violence and injustice in search of a better life in the United States.
The LAPD released an edited video package online on Monday that included 911 calls, radio transmissions, body camera footage and surveillance video of Thursday’s shooting at a store crowded with holiday shoppers. The ministry’s policy is to release videos of critical incidents, such as police shootings, within 45 days.
Lawyers for the family – including civil rights attorney Ben Crump – sent a letter to the LAPD requesting more video.
Surveillance video showed the suspect was attacking two women, one of whom fell to the ground before dragging her by the feet in the aisles of the store as she tried to crawl.
Several people, including store workers, called police to report a man hitting customers with a bicycle lock. A caller told a 911 dispatcher that the man had a gun. No firearms – only the bicycle lock – were recovered from the scene.
The first surveillance footage showed a man carrying a bicycle down the store’s escalator to the second floor, where he was walking around, seemingly disoriented, clutching a cable-type lock. Sometimes he stood still, gazing into the distance.
Later footage showed the man on the escalator attacking a woman, who managed to escape his grip and run out of the store.
The man then left the store for a minute and a half, police said. After his return, according to the video, he repeatedly beat a woman with a bicycle lock as she curled up on the ground. As she tried to escape, he dragged her down the aisle to the locker room.
In the body camera video, armed officers entered the store and approached the suspect. One held a rifle and walked forward to the front of the platoon as officers walked through the store in formation.
Other officers repeatedly repeated “slow down” and “slow it down” as the officer with the rifle moved forward.
“She’s bleeding!” an officer shouted as they encountered the victim, crawling across the bloodstained floor. The suspect was across the aisle.
“Hold on! Hold on!” another officer shouted just before three shots rang out.
The officer holding the rifle fired, police said.
24-year-old suspect Daniel Elena Lopez died at the scene. The screams of Soledad Peralta can be heard in the video.
“At this preliminary stage of the investigation, the victim is believed to have been hit by one of the bullets fired by an officer at the suspect,” Police Captain Stacy Spell said in the posted video. Police believe the bullet jumped off the ground and hit the locker room wall.
The California Department of Justice is also investigating.
“At LAPD, we wish to express our deepest condolences and our deepest regret for the loss of this innocent victim, Valentina Orellana-Peralta. There are no words that can describe the depth of sadness we feel at this tragic outcome, ”Spell said in the video.
LAPD officers shot dead 38 people – including 18 fatally, including Sunday’s shooting of a man with a knife – in 2021, according to the Los Angeles Times. These numbers mark a dramatic increase in cases where officers have shot or killed people over the past two years.
Mourners left flowers and a votive candle outside the store on Christmas at a memorial for Orellana-Peralta. Her family said she had good grades, even though English was her second language and had only been in the United States for about six months.
Her father, Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas, had already bought tickets to move to the United States when he learned of his daughter’s death. They were planning to go to an NBA basketball game – she was a fan of star LeBron James – and see a favorite band perform, he said.
“It’s very sad and very tragic,” James told The Associated Press after the Los Angeles Lakers game on Tuesday against the Houston Rockets. “Whenever a family loses a loved one in such an incident, you can only cry with them and feel the sincerity of it, and just pray that no child should ever, ever lose their life because of such an act like that. “
“There is definitely a life that is gone too soon,” he said, describing her as an angel now watching her family. “I only wish them comfort in these difficult times. And to know that she was a fan of mine, I hope I still make her proud as she looks at me too.
Outside the LAPD headquarters, Orellana Larenas held up a brand new skateboard, still in its plastic wrap, that her daughter had ordered online. He was delivered after his death.
The family plan to leave the skateboard on her grave “so she can skate with the angels,” her father said.
The Times reported that Elena Lopez’s criminal history included convictions for car theft, carrying a loaded gun in public, and carrying a gun as a criminal. Authorities were unwilling to divulge his story in the state prison system, citing the ongoing investigation.
The woman who was assaulted had moderate to severe injuries, including injuries to the head, arms and face. She has not been publicly named.
LAPD agents also killed a passerby in 2018, during a shootout with a suspect in a Trader Joe’s market. Police shot dead Melyda Corado, 27, the deputy store manager, as she ran towards the store entrance. Prosecutors discovered that two police officers acted legally when they returned the shots at the suspect.
Lee reported from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Associated Press reporter Kristie Rieken has contributed from Houston.