A 14-year-old girl’s family is seeking justice for their daughter after she was shot and killed by a stray bullet by a Los Angeles Police Department officer while in a dressing room.
Valentina Orellana Peralta was shopping with her mother at a North Hollywood Burlington Coat Factory on Thursday when a man armed with what looked to be a bike lock began attacking customers.
Both employees and witnesses called 911 to report the crime, but amid the chaos inside the store, police arrived on the scene believing that the man was likely carrying a firearm, according to the LAPD. And when officers arrived, they shot and killed the man, identified by police as Daniel Elena Lopez, 24.
But one of the bullets that officers fired at Elena Lopez shot through the dressing room door where Valentina and her mother were sheltering in place — and Valentina died in her arms.
“We heard some screams and sat down and hugged and started crying,” Valentina’s mother, Soledad Peralta, said in a statement translated from Spanish to English during a press conference Tuesday.
“Valentina went to lock the door to protect us. We started hugging each other tighter. We were praying. I was praying for her, and I believe she was praying for me.”
Soledad said that all of a sudden, something hit Valentina and knocked her to the ground.
“I saw white powder coming out of Valentina’s body and she began to go through convulsions. Her body went limp. I tried to wake her up by shaking her,” Soledad said.
“She died in my arms and there was nothing I could do. To see a son or daughter die in your arms is one of the greatest and most profound pains that any human being can imagine.”
“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,” she said.
Police Chief Michel R. Moore issued a statement addressing the shooting on Friday where he vowed to conduct an extensive investigation.
“This chaotic incident resulting in the death of an innocent child is tragic and devastating for everyone involved,” he said. “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 the department will 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.”
“It is like my whole heart has been ripped out of my body,” Valentina’s father shared in a statement. “She had dreams, and tragically those dreams have been overshadowed by this nightmare that has prevented me from sleeping at night.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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