With the Reverend Al Sharpton set to deliver the eulogy for Valentina Orellana-Peralta, Monday’s memorial service for the 14-year-old shot by Los Angeles police is taking on a distinct political overtone.
Uproar from the tragedy, in which police opened fire on a suspect inside a Burlington Coat Factory in North Hollywood on December 23, has already reached the highest diplomatic circles in Washington. Last Thursday, President Biden even offered his condolences on the death of Santiago, Chile native Orellana-Peralta to president-elect Gabriel Boric.
Many expect an impassioned eulogy from Sharpton, the civil rights activist and MSNBC news personality, to produce some fireworks at the memorial service. The 67 year old Sharpton famously delivered the eulogy at the funeral for George Floyd in Houston, Texas on June 9, 2020.
George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery’s attorney Ben Crump, a political ally of Sharpton, is representing Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas, the girl’s father. A spokesperson for Sharpton told Los Angeles, “The family and the attorneys asked for Reverend Sharpton.”
LAPD released videos from the fatal shooting on December 23, showing the events that led to the shooting death of the teen by an officer firing at a suspect. A stray bullet fired by police found Orellana-Peralta in the dressing room where she had sought safety, and she reportedly died in her mother’s arms.
Sharpton, the Harlem-based civil rights activist, political operative, and an ordained minister in the Pentecostal church since the age of 10, was unavailable for further comment. Over the decades, Sharpton has become a pastor to families of African Americans killed by police in high-profile cases, like those of Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo in NYC.
In November, a defense attorney in the Arbery killing case complained to Georgia Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley that Sharpton’s presence in court was an attempt to intimidate the mostly white jury hearing the case.
“I have nothing personal against Mr. Sharpton,” defense attorney Kevin Gough told the judge. “My concern is if we’re going to start a precedent where we’re going to bring high-profile members of the African-American community to sit with the family during the trial in the presence of the jury, I believe it’s intimidating and could be unconsciously or consciously an attempt to pressure or influence the jury.”
“We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here sitting with the family and trying to influence the jury in this case.”
Sharpton, the president of the National Action Network and host of MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation,” was in court with Arbery’s parents and their attorney Crump for the guilty verdict in that case. The president of the National Action Network and host of MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation” told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow that the defense attorney’s remarks were “an outrage.”
On Tuesday, protesters gathered with the parents and their attorneys outside the LAPD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. “It is like my whole heart has been ripped out of my body,” said Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas.
An online petition at www.justiceforvalentina.com asking for “involuntary manslaughter charges” against the officers who opened fire inside the store has gathered nearly six thousand signatures.
In addition to Orrella Peralta, the officer-involved shooting also killed a man later identified as 24-year-old Daniel Elena-Lopez, who was reportedly assaulting people in the store, for which police were called to respond. Officers recovered a “very heavy” cable bike lock at the scene.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced on the day of the shooting that the California Department of Justice will independently review the officer-involved shooting. Meanwhile, LAPD Chief Michel Moore told the LA Times that the department is investigating the incident. “There’s not a police officer in America who would ever want this type of circumstance to occur,” Moore said, adding that it did not appear the officer who fired the shots would have known there was anyone behind the wall.
The funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. PST on Monday at City of Refuge Church in Gardena. Reverend Sharpton and attorney Crump will be joined by the family of Valentina Orrellana Peralta, Rahul Ravipudi, the attorney representing Valentina’s mother Soledad Peralta, and Bishop Noel Jones, senior pastor at City of Refuge Church.
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