A Los Angeles Police Department officer violated policy when he fired a rifle at a suspect multiple times inside a San Fernando Valley clothing store last December, accidentally killing 14-year-old Valentina Orellana-Peralta as she prayed with her mother in a dressing room, the city’s civilian Police Commission ruled Tuesday.
As the Associated Press reports, William Dorsey Jones Jr. had been firing at Daniel Elena Lopez, who attacked Orellana-Peralta and her mother while they were shopping for a quinceañera dress, when Jones killed the girl. Elena Lopez was also killed.
While the Police Commission concluded that Jones was justified in firing one shot but that the other two were out of policy, LAPD Chief Michel Moore previously concluded in his own review that all three shots were unjustified. In Moore’s report to the Police Commission last month, Moore said a majority of the Use of Force Review Board concluded that Jones was “hyper-focused on his belief that this was an active shooter scenario and may have failed to conduct an objective assessment when he arrived at the scene.”
Now that the rulings have come down, Jones could be disciplined or even fired. He can appeal disciplinary decisions in state court.
Police were called to the Burlington store in North Hollywood following reports that a man was behaving erratically and wielding a bike lock, according to AP. He attacked two women, including one who fell to the floor before he dragged her by her feet through the store’s aisles as she tried to crawl away.
Officers responding to the store followed active shooter protocols due to 911 calls about a suspect with a gun. No gun was found, but police discovered a bike lock possibly used as a weapon they believed to be related to their investigation.
Bodycam footage pieced together the grim final moments of the perpetrator, Elena Lopez.
Jones rushed to the scene when he saw a shopper on the floor, having been beaten by Elena-Lopez with a lock. “She’s bleeding!” Jones shouted, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Another officer screamed at Jones to “Hold up!” just as Jones fired off three rounds in a row.
After Elena Lopez was hit, the real terror struck as screams were heard coming from another part of the store, near the dressing rooms.
As police searched the store for additional suspects, they found Orellana-Peralta and her mother Soledad Peralta, huddled in a dressing room. The girl had been hit in the chest. She died in her mother’s arms.
According to an autopsy report, Elena Lopez was on methamphetamine at the time of death.
In a statement at the time, the LAPD said it did not know Orellana-Peralta “was in a changing room behind a wall, that was directly behind the suspect and out of the officers’ view.”
In July, Orellana-Peralta’s family filed a lawsuit against Jones and the city, alleging that the LAPD failed to “adequately train and supervise” the responding officers and “fostered an environment that allowed and permitted this shooting to occur.”
In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, the police union said he was following “active shooter” rules, according to NBC News.
At a news conference, Soledad Peralta, said, “To see a son or daughter die in your arms is one of the greatest pains and the most profound pain that any human being can imagine.”
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