The family of 14-year-old Valentina Orellana-Peralta, who was fatally shot by Los Angeles police at a clothing store on Dec. 23, is demanding answers from the department.
“To see a son or daughter die in your arms is one of the pains — the greatest pains and most profound pains — that any human being can imagine,” said Valentina’s mother, Soledad Peralta. “Now, our sweet angel has left us forever. Please give us strength, Valentina.”
The family is being represented by civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who has also represented the families of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery.
Valentina was killed on Dec. 23 while holiday shopping with her mother at a Burlington clothing store in North Hollywood, California. She was fatally struck by a stray bullet in a dressing room, while holiday shopping with her mother, when LAPD officers opened fire on a suspect who had allegedly committed assault with a deadly weapon in the store.
Valentina’s mother and father wore signs Tuesday that said “justice for our daughter.”
“The pain of opening Christmas presents for her that were delivered for Christmas Day cannot be described,” said Valentina’s father, Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas, in Spanish at Tuesday’s press conference. “Now, those gifts will be brought to her grave because she’s gone.”
“It’s like my heart was torn out,” he said.
The LAPD published 911 calls, radio transmissions, body camera footage and surveillance video four days after the incident. The department’s policy is to release video of incidents like police shootings within 45 days.
In a Dec. 27 statement, LAPD Chief Michel R. Moore said, “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.”
He added, “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.”
According to the LAPD’s body camera footage and 911 audio recordings, several callers notified 911 dispatchers of a possible shooting in progress at the store. One 911 caller can be heard asking customers to evacuate and telling the dispatcher that he is breaking things.
The suspect, Daniel Elena-Lopez, did not have a gun at the scene, according to officials. He had a metal bike lock that was allegedly used to assault a woman and break glass.
Elena-Lopez carried his bicycle to the store’s second floor, where he set it down and wandered around trying on clothes, according to surveillance footage provided by LAPD. He was confronted by a store employee about his bicycle when he broke a computer monitor with his metal bike lock.
According to surveillance footage, Elena-Lopez repeatedly hit the glass railing by the store’s escalators and walked around the store erratically.
The footage shows Elena-Lopez attacking a woman on the escalator with his bike lock. She escaped and left the store. He then attacked another woman but she also fled.
Later, according to the footage, Elena-Lopez repeatedly beat a third woman with his bike lock on the second floor of the store. As she tried to escape, he dragged her toward the dressing rooms. She was injured and bleeding from the attack when police arrived, officials say.
Armed officers then entered the store, confronted Elena-Lopez and fatally shot him, according to LAPD. A bullet is believed to have pierced a wall behind the suspect and hit Valentina.
“We heard screams and we sat down, and hugged, and started praying,” said Peralta, through a translator. “When something hit my daughter, Valentina, it threw us to the floor … and she died in my arms.”
She added, “There was nothing I could do.”
Officials say Valentina was out of sight from the officers.
The Los Angeles County medical examiner-coroner declared Valentina’s manner of death as a homicide, with the cause of death being a gunshot wound to the chest.