The fatal shooting of Valentina Orellana-Peralta, a 14-year-old girl who died in her mother’s arms when a Los Angeles Police Department officer shot her inside a Burlington clothing store in North Hollywood, marked the 17th fatal shooting by the department in 2021, according to the Los Angeles Times. But after LAPD officers fatally shot another person on Sunday, that figure has since reached 18 police killings for the year.
The shooting of Orellana-Peralta happened just two days before Christmas when she and her mother had gone to Burlington to try on dresses for a quinceañera. LAPD officers responded about 11:45 a.m. to reports that a man, later identified as 24-year-old Daniel Elena-Lopez, was assaulting people in the store. One store employee told dispatchers the man had a bike lock that he was using to assault or threaten people and did not appear to have a knife or gun, while another caller incorrectly said the suspect had a gun.
As a group of LAPD officers rushed into the store with their weapons drawn, they came across a bloodied woman, as seen on video surveillance released Monday. Within seconds of spotting Elena-Lopez, at least one officer—later identified by multiple sources as William Dorsey Jones Jr.— opened fire, killing Elena-Lopez. That gunfire also struck and killed Orellana-Peralta when it penetrated the dressing room wall where she and her mother had been hiding.
“We at the LAPD would like to express our most heartfelt condolences and profound regret for the loss of this innocent victim, Valentina Orellana-Peralta, police Capt. Stacy Spell said in the video released by the department. “There are no words that can describe the depth of the sorrow we feel at this tragic outcome.”
The tragic shooting arrives after LAPD shooting had reached a 30-year low in 2019, the Los Angeles Times reports. In 2019, officers shot 26 people, killing 12, marking a dramatic dip in such shootings from a high of more than 100 per year in the early 1990s. In 2020, LAPD officers shot 27 people, killing seven of them.
Police Chief Michel R. Moore called the Dec. 23 shooting “tragic” and said he is committed to “conduct a thorough, complete and transparent investigation.” Tom Saggau, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said the department’s investigation would also be followed up by a hearing held by a five-member civilian commission. Spell said the investigation could take up to a year to complete.
The family of Orellana-Peralta demanded justice for the teenager during a press conference Tuesday morning outside LAPD headquarters in downtown L.A. The girl’s parents spoke alongside several attorneys including Ben Crump, a high profile figure who has represented several victims of police shootings nationally. He represented the family of George Floyd, whose killing by Minneapolis police in 2020 prompted worldwide protests.
During the conference, Crump said Orellana-Peralta’s family wanted the world to know that their daughter “was beautiful, intelligent and had the whole world ahead of her,” and that she “made exceptional grades at an English-speaking school even though English was not her native tongue,” the Los Angeles Times reports. She had recently moved to the U.S. from Chile about six months ago.
“We should not have to sacrifice innocent life in the name of safety when it was foreseeable that two days before Christmas, that there were going to be people in a shopping plaza shopping,” Crump said. “The family thinks things could have been done differently, to where Valentina wouldn’t have been collateral damage [and] would still be here getting ready to celebrate Christmas.”
In response to the shooting, Mayor Eric Garcetti, in a statement, vowed to handle Orellana-Peralta’s case “with the transparency, sensitivity and accountability that Valentina’s family deserves.”
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