One bullet went through a drywall and struck the girl
The Los Angeles Police Department on Monday released the surveillance video of a fatal shooting inside a store in North Hollywood, in which two people — a 14-year-old bystander and a suspect — were shot dead in police firing.
The teenager, Valentina Orellana-Peralta, was in the trial room of a Burlington store trying on a quinceanera—the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday—dress with her mother last Thursday when a man was assaulting people outside.
The police fired at him three times, but one bullet went through a drywall behind him and struck the girl instead. The incident has sparked concerns about fatal shootings by the police force.
The visuals released by the LAPD showed the 24-year-old suspect, Daniel Elena-Lopez, entering the Burlington Coat factory store in a tan top and shorts. He took the escalators to an upper floor with his bike, reported CNN.
Soon after, Elena-Lopez is seen in different clothes, a multicoloured jacket and trousers. He then swings his bike lock at customers in the store, injuring several female customers. The man was reportedly acting erratically and threatening to cause disruption by throwing items from the upper floor.
As the officers near the suspect, footage from the body camera videos showed a severely injured woman on the floor as she bled from the attack by Elena-Lopez.
Officers can be heard in the video saying: “Hey get her out, get her out”, and “he’s hitting her now on the right-hand side,” followed by shouts that she was bleeding.
The suspect can be seen standing some distance away from the injured woman, who was lying on the floor.
After coming near the suspect, an officer fired three bullets towards him.
“The suspect was struck by gunfire and taken into custody. Fire department paramedics responded and determined the suspect deceased at scene,” the LAPD said in a statement.
The statement also confirmed Valentina’s death.
“Unbeknownst to the officers, a 14-year-old girl was in a changing room behind a wall that was directly behind the suspect and out of the officer’s view,” the statement added. “She was in the changing area with her mother when the officers encountered the suspect and the officer involved shooting occurred.”
It added: “During a search for additional suspects and victims, officers found the girl and discovered that she had been struck by gunfire. She was pronounced dead at the scene.” It is believed that the victim was struck by one of the rounds fired by an officer at the suspect.
The death of the teenager, ruled as homicide by the coroner, has sparked outrage among locals as many questioned the need to fire at the suspect when it was unclear if he was armed.
Authorities confirmed that no gun, only the bike lock, was recovered from the scene of crime.
American attorney and trial lawyer Ben Crump who has led the family of George Floyd through the legal proceedings took to Twitter and said the teen’s death was preventable.
“Just days before Christmas, Valentina Orellana-Peralta was trying on quinceañera dresses w/her mom when police started shooting at a suspect outside of the dressing rooms. A stray bullet from an officer’s assault rifle struck & killed Valentina. Her death was preventable!” Mr Crump said in a tweet.
The incident is now being probed by the California Department of Justice.
According to data by the Los Angeles Times, at least 38 people have been shot by the LAPD force officers this year, out of which 18 were shot fatally, confirming a trend of dramatic rise in such incidents.
In 2020, as many as 27 people were shot by the LA police, out of which seven were killed, data showed. In the previous year, 26 people were shot and 12 people were killed.