A family spoke out Tuesday, calling for justice for their teenage daughter who was killed when an LAPD officer’s bullet pierced through a fitting room wall as police fired at an assault suspect at a North Hollywood store.
The 14-year-old girl, Valentina Orellana-Peralta, was shopping for Christmas clothes with her mother at a Burlington Coat Factory store last Thursday when they heard screaming.
A man had gone into the clothing store that was crowded with holiday shoppers and began assaulting customers. It spurred multiple calls to Los Angeles Police Department officers, who responded to the scene and opened fire on the suspect, authorities said.
As the chaos unfolded, the girl locked the door of the fitting room, hugged her mother and they began to pray.
Suddenly, they heard a loud noise, and the girl went limp in her mother’s arms.
“Something hit my daughter Valentina and we were thrown to the floor and she died in my arms,” her mother, Soledad Peralta, said in Spanish at an emotional news conference Tuesday. “I couldn’t do anything.”
Police say they believe an officer’s bullet skipped off the floor and went through the dressing room wall, striking the girl.
Orellana-Peralta’s parents joined civil rights attorney Ben Crump for the news conference outside LAPD headquarters Tuesday.
“My world collapsed when I heard that news,” Orellana-Peralta’s father said, speaking in Spanish as he wore a sign on his chest that called for justice for his daughter.
“I don’t have words to describe the sense of pain I am feeling right now,” the father said. “Especially during these special dates, when my daughter had asked me for so many gifts that I didn’t get to open with her, instead I will give them to her at her gravesite.”
He held up a skateboard that his daughter had ordered online. It arrived the day after she was killed.
“We will now leave it at her grave, so she can skateboard with the angels,” the father said.
The family had recently moved to the U.S. from Chile, looking for a better life, according to their attorney. Orellana-Peralta dreamed of becoming a U.S. citizen.
“I told her ‘let’s leave this country’ and she said, ‘No, dad, this country is the safest in the world, the country of opportunity,” the father said. “And now you see, my daughter is dead by the state …. this is what my daughter found here. Death.”
Video released Monday showed Los Angeles police firing at the man who was suspected of assaulting customers at the store.
The edited video package shared by LAPD provides recordings of the 911 calls reporting in the incident. The calls included reports that the man was striking customers with a bike lock and one report that the assailant had a gun.
Police did not find a gun at the scene, but did find a bike lock.
The video also showed surveillance video of the man attacking two women, including one whom he repeatedly struck and dragged through the aisles.
Officers are then seen rushing into the store and approaching the suspect and a victim, who is seen bloodied and crawling on the floor.
At least one officer then opens fire, striking the man who fell to the ground. The suspect, 24-year-old Daniel Elena-Lopez, died at the scene.
Police believe the 14-year-old girl, who was out of the officer’s view in the fitting room, was struck by one of the rounds fired by an officer at the suspect. She was found during a search for additional suspects.
“We at the LAPD would like to express our most heartfelt condolences and profound regret for the loss of this innocent victim, Valentina Orellana-Peralta. There are no words that can describe the depth of the sorrow we feel at this tragic outcome,” LAPD Capt. Stacy Spell said in the video.
Crump, a prominent national civil rights attorney, said things could have been done differently to prevent Orellana-Peralta from “being collateral damage.”
“Never should this 14-year-old little girl have ended up as collateral damage at a shopping plaza,” the attorney said. “They came to America from Chile to get away from violence and injustice to have a better life in America.”
The family’s legal team said they sent a preservation of evidence letter to the LAPD to ensure that all of that evidence is saved, and that it will be made available to them.
Crump said they want full transparency and accountability.
“Watching a son or daughter die in your arms is one of the greatest pains that one can imagine… Now our sweet angel has left forever,” Peralta said.
“Valentina, give us strength to get justice,” the mother said as she sobbed.