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Parents of 14-Year-Old Girl Killed in LAPD Shooting Demand Transparency
By City News Service
Published December 30, 2021

Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas, right, Soledad Peralta, second from right, the parents of Valentina Orellana-Peralta, and attorney Ben Crump, second left, arrive for a news conference outside the Los Angeles Police Department headquarters in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021. The parents of Valentina Orellana-Peralta, the 14-year-old girl killed by a stray bullet fired by an LAPD officer at a North Hollywood clothing store last week, and their attorneys held a news conference to discuss the family’s demand for transparency from the Los Angeles Police Department. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

The parents of a 14-year-old girl who was
fatally struck by a stray bullet fired by Los Angeles police at an assault
suspect inside a North Hollywood clothing store publicly called for full
transparency during the various investigations into the shooting.

In a tearful, emotional news conference outside LAPD headquarters,
Valentina Orellana-Peralta’s parents described the horror of losing their
daughter two days before Christmas. The girl was with her mother in a dressing
room, trying on Christmas dresses, when she was struck by a police bullet that
passed through a wall on the second floor of the Burlington store at 12121
Victory Blvd.

The girl died in the arms of her mother, who said she and her daughter
sat down and hugged when they heard the commotion in the store, and the
force of the gunshot that struck Valentina threw them to the ground.

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“As I lay screaming for help, the police did not come to help me or
my daughter, but I kept screaming,” Valentina’s mother, Soledad Peralta, said.

“When the police finally came, they took me out of the dressing room and left
my daughter laying there. I wanted them to help her, but they just left her
laying there alone.”

Attorney Rahul Ravipudi said the family’s lawyers sent a preservation
of evidence letter to the LAPD “so that we actually can have transparency on
all of the evidence and all of the information, so that the LAPD doesn’t drive
the narrative on what they did. We can expose that truth ourselves.”

Ravipudi said the letter was sent immediately after the shooting “to
make sure that all of that evidence is saved” and available to attorneys
throughout the investigation.

While police released body-worn camera footage of the shooting on
Monday, attorney Ben Crump said Tuesday that attorneys believe there is also
surveillance video from the Burlington store itself, which they are trying to
access. Some surveillance video clips were released by the LAPD Monday.

“We want all the documentation, complete transparency, not just a
perspective that tries to justify things, we want everything released,” said
Crump, a high-profile civil-rights attorney who has represented clients
including the family of George Floyd, who died while being arrested by
Minneapolis police, setting off national protests.

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Crump said attorneys are “going to address how things could have been
done differently to prevent (Valentina) from being collateral damage.”

“We should not have to sacrifice innocent life in the name of
safety,” Crump said.

Valentina’s parents, speaking through translators, said their daughter
came to Los Angeles from Chile about six months ago and had dreams of
becoming an engineer, an American citizen and going to see a Los Angeles Lakers
game with her father.

“She wanted to be here in the United States because this was the land
of opportunity, and she was excited about that,” attorney Erica Contreras
said, translating for Valentina’s father, Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas.

“The only thing that he has left for him now is to seek justice for
his daughter. He will not rest until justice for his daughter is served,”
Contreras added.

Valentina attended High Tech Los Angeles Charter School, where she had
just passed her math and physics exams.

Crump read a letter sent to the family by the school’s principal,

Colleen Molina, saying Valentina “was an amazing young woman who was brave and
showed so much growth in such a short time here at HTLA.”

A GoFundMe page established to benefit the teen’s family had raised
nearly $30,000 by midday Tuesday.

Los Angeles police on Monday released body-camera footage and other
details of the shooting, which occurred around 11:45 a.m. Thursday when
officers responded to reports of a man assaulting people, and possibly firing
shots, inside the Burlington store.

The narrated video released by the LAPD includes footage showing the
assault suspect viciously attacking a woman on the second floor of the
Burlington store, repeatedly beating her with a steel or metal cable bike lock,
leaving her bloodied on the floor as officers arrived.

Body-camera video captures the sound of police gunfire quickly ringing
out as officers spot the suspect — with the cable lock in his hand. More
than a half-dozen officers descend on the suspect after the shots are heard,
and the injured suspect is taken into custody, and later pronounced dead on the
scene.

While the video shows the suspect with the cable lock in his right
hand, there is no indication he is armed with a gun, and it is unclear if he
advanced on any officers before the shots rang out. Police have said no gun was
found at the scene.

The video released by the LAPD Monday includes audio from a series of
911 calls. In one call, a store employee tells a dispatcher a suspect is in the
store attacking people with a bike lock. In another, a woman reports the sound
of shots being fired in the store, saying there’s “a guy with a gun.” Another
caller reports that her mother was hiding inside the store because of a man
making threats. She added, “I don’t know if he has a gun, I don’t know what he
has, but they’re hiding.”

The video released by the LAPD shows the suspect, identified as 24-
year-old Daniel Elena Lopez, entering the store with his bicycle around 11 a.m.

“(The suspect) took the escalator up to the second floor,” LAPD
Capt. Stacy Spell says on the video. “He laid his bike in an aisle and walked
around the store putting on clothes.”

Spell said a store employee approached Lopez about his bicycle and
left the area. Lopez then allegedly smashed a computer monitor and a glass
railing with a bike lock before going back down the escalator and encountering
a woman, Spell said.

 

A police officer works behind a broken glass door at the scene where two people were struck by gunfire in a shooting at a Burlington store — part of a chain formerly known as Burlington Coat Factory in North Hollywood, Calif., Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Lopez allegedly attempted to steal the woman’s bag and hit her with
the bike lock when she resisted. The woman fled the scene and has not been
identified.

Lopez waited at the bottom of the escalator as another woman descended
and allegedly attempted to grab her, but she was able to break free and
fled the store as well, Spell said. He then went back up to the second floor
and can be seen on surveillance video striking a third woman from behind with
the lock.

The video shows the suspect attacking the woman from behind, striking
her in the head with the cable lock. The woman struggles with the suspect, who
at one point drags the woman along the floor. The suspect can then be seen
repeatedly beating her with the lock as she lies on the floor.

Body-camera footage from arriving officers shows police as they
spotted the woman on the floor, then the suspect a moment later at the end of a
store aisle — then the sound of police gunfire.

After the wounded suspect was detained, and eventually pronounced
dead, officers found the 14-year-old girl dead in a dressing room that was
behind the suspect when the shooting occurred. According to the video released
Monday, police believe a bullet fired by police skipped off the floor of the
store and passed through the dressing room wall, striking the teen on the other
side.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore, who was out of town with family but briefed
on the shooting, said in a statement over the holiday weekend: “This chaotic
incident resulting in the death of an innocent child is tragic and devastating
for everyone involved.”

“I am profoundly sorry for the loss of this young girl’s life and I
know there are no words that can relieve the unimaginable pain for the
family,” Moore said. “My commitment is to conduct a thorough, complete and
transparent investigation into the circumstances that led up to this tragedy
and provide the family and public with as much information as possible,” the
chief added.

The LAPD Family Liaison is working closely with the Mayor’s Crisis
Response Team and Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez to provide assistance to the 14-
year-old girl’s family, a department official said.

The department’s Force Investigation Division and Inspector General’s
Office were both investigating the shooting, along with the California
Department of Justice’s California Police Shooting Investigation Team for
Southern California. The DOJ investigates officer shootings under provisions of
a bill signed into law last year.

Once the investigation has been completed, the results will be turned
over to the California Department of Justice’s Special Prosecutions Section
within the Criminal Law Division for independent review.

Local civil rights leaders on Monday called for the arrest and
prosecution of the officer who fired the shot that killed the teen. On Tuesday,
some called on Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon to appoint a special
investigator in the case.

In a joint statement, Earl Ofari Hutchinson and Pedro Baez, the
president and vice president, respectively, of the Los Angeles Urban Policy
Roundtable, said, “The slaying was unprecedented in its scope and tragedy.
This demands an intense, focused and urgency basis investigation of the slaying
to determine possible prosecution of the officer involved for the illegal use
of deadly force.”
On Saturday, the League of United Latin American Citizens criticized
the shooting, calling it “indefensible” for police to open fire in the middle
of a store without knowing if the suspect was armed.
The officer who fired the shot that killed the teen was paced on
administrative leave while the investigation is ongoing, police said Friday.
The officer has not been identified.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing LAPD
officers, issued a statement saying, “Words cannot convey our utter sorrow
over the loss of Valentina Orellana-Peralta. We pray for Valentina’s family as
they cope with this unbearable tragedy and we also pray for the officer
involved in this incident as he is devastated over what occurred.”

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