The Los Angeles Police Department released body camera footage and surveillance video of an incident in which an officer shot dead a 14-year-old girl inside a department store while shooting another anybody.
Footage from Thursday morning’s incident shows that as soon as police encountered a man suspected of assault inside the store, an officer fired three bullets at him from a distance. One of the officer’s bullets hit the young girl as she bounced off the floor and in the locker room where she was with her mother, police said on Monday.
The 14-year-old victim was identified as Valentina Orellana-Peralta, according to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner’s Office, which ruled the death was a homicide gunshot to the chest.
Orellana-Peralta died at the scene of the Burlington Coat Factory store in North Hollywood.
The firing officer was placed on paid leave and has not been identified. The man shot by police on arrival was Daniel Elena Lopez, 24, who also died at the scene, officials said.
Lawyers representing the Orellana-Peralta family said in a statement Monday that the girl was in the lodge with her mother, trying on Christmas dresses, and that she died in her mother’s arms.
Police have received multiple calls for 911 help, according to audio released Monday. A woman, who appeared to be working in the store, told police that there was a “hostile customer” who “attacked” people and ordered people to evacuate the store. This caller said the man had a bike lock that he used to assault and threaten people, but told the dispatcher it didn’t appear he had a knife or a gun. Other panicked callers said they thought the man might have a gun.
Images released inside the store suggest that Elena Lopez did not have a gun. Authorities said they only discovered the lock on the bike.
Videos show Elena Lopez wandering the store with her bicycle and hitting several customers, including people as they begin to evacuate. At one point he was hitting the air when no one was around him. Just before the police arrived, he began to repeatedly attack a woman who ended up on the ground, the video shows.
Eventually, about a dozen agents entered the store. An officer with an assault rifle first ordered the other officers to “slow down” and “take a distance” and “back up” before approaching Elena Lopez. This officer said he would take the lead.
But the officer’s body camera footage showed that as soon as he walked down the aisle of the store where Elena Lopez was standing and saw the man for the first time, he fired three bullets in quick succession on him. The footage did not show the officer giving orders and did not show Elena Lopez walking towards the officer. Elena Lopez was at the other end of the aisle from the store and seemed to be turning away from him. The victim, who was bleeding, was on the ground next to the policeman when he fired his gun.
âThis chaotic incident resulting in the death of an innocent child is tragic and devastating for all involved. I am deeply sorry for the loss of the life of this young girl and I know that there are no words that can ease the unimaginable pain of the family, âsaid Michel Moore, head of the LAPD, in a statement .
The California Attorney General’s Office and the California Department of Justice will investigate the shooting.
The footage, released late Monday afternoon, raised concerns over the use of lethal force and why the officer shot Elena Lopez without giving an order and while Elena Lopez was away of the victim and the officer.
“There was nothing in the video that justified opening fire like the policeman did with the assault rifle,” said John Hamasaki, a criminal defense attorney who is a member of the commission. San Francisco police and regularly review footage of police murders. “I was shocked to see the videoâ¦ Lethal force is the last option on the table.”
Hamasaki noted that the police are trained to try to control a situation with commands first, which does not appear to happen in this case. He also noted that the police had focused on de-escalation for years, but that there appeared to be little effort to communicate with the man in order to defuse the situation before the murder.
The death of a 14-year-old passer-by sparked outrage across the United States. Domingo GarcÃa, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said in a statement: armed. “
The case also drew comparisons to a 2018 LAPD murder, when an officer shot a suspect inside a Trader Joe’s store and in so doing killed a store manager.
LAPD killings have risen sharply this year – the department shot dead 18 people in 2021, up from seven in 2020, according to the LA Times. On Sunday, the department announced that an officer shot dead another man who allegedly held a knife.