NORTH HOLLYWOOD (CNS) – Los Angeles police Monday released body-camera footage and other details of a shooting by officers that killed a 14-year-old girl who was struck by a stray bullet at a North Hollywood clothing store.
Meanwhile, local civil rights leaders made a public call Monday for the arrest and prosecution of the officer who fired the shot that killed the teen, identified as Valentina Orellana-Peralta.
“The slaying was unwarranted and involved the reckless use of deadly force by the LAPD,” Earl Ofari Hutchinson of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable said in a statement ahead of an afternoon news conference. “This is only the latest in a continuing series of LAPD shootings of civilians under highly dubious circumstances.”
The officer who fired the shot that killed the teen was paced on administrative leave while the investigation is ongoing, police said Friday.
Police were called to the Burlington store at 12121 Victory Blvd., near Laurel Canyon Boulevard, at about 11:45 a.m Thursday after receiving a 911 call from a person who reported hearing shots fired and arguing inside the store, according to the LAPD.
The video released by the LAPD shows the suspect, identified as 24- year-old Daniel Elena Lopez, entering the store with his bicycle around 11 a.m.
“[The suspect] took the escalator up to the second floor,” LAPD Cpt. Stacy Spell said. “He laid his bike in an aisle and walked around the store putting on clothes.”
Spell said a store employee approached Lopez about his bicycle and left the area. Lopez then allegedly smashed a computer monitor and a glass railing with a bike lock before going back down the escalator and encountering a woman.
Lopez allegedly attempted to steal the woman’s bag and hit her with the bike lock when she resisted. The woman fled the scene and has not been identified.
Lopez waited at the bottom of the escalator as another woman descended, and he allegedly attempted to grab her, but she was able to break free and fled the store as well, Spell said. He then went back up to the second floor and allegedly struck a third woman from behind with the lock.
The woman fell to the ground, and Lopez allegedly continued beating her, Spell said.
According to police, responding officers found Lopez assaulting the third woman inside the store, prompting at least one officer to open fire. Lopez was killed in the shooting and the woman he was assaulting was taken to a hospital.
LAPD Assistant Chief Dominic Choi said that during a subsequent search, police found a hole in a stretch of drywall that was in front of the officer or officers who opened fire at the suspect.
“We went behind it (the wall), and it turned out to be a dressing room up there,” Choi said. “We were able to locate a 14-year-old female who was found deceased in that dressing room.”
Asked if the girl was shot by police, Choi said, “Preliminarily, we believe that round was an officer’s round.”
The teen, Valentina, was shopping with her mother for a quinceanera dress.
It was unclear exactly what prompted the shooting. Choi said no weapon was found on the suspect, although a “steel or metal cable lock, a very heavy lock” was found near him.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore, who was out of town with family but briefed on the shooting, said in a statement over the holiday weekend: “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,” Moore said. “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.”
The LAPD Family Liaison is working closely with the Mayor’s Crisis Response Team and Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez to provide assistance to the 14- year-old girl’s family, a department official said.
The department’s Force Investigation Division and Inspector General’s Office were both investigating the shooting, along with the California Department of Justice’s California Police Shooting Investigation Team for Southern California. The DOJ investigates officer shootings under provisions of a bill signed into law last year.
Once the investigation has been completed, the results will be turned over to the California Department of Justice’s Special Prosecutions Section within the Criminal Law Division for independent review.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the suspect, Elena Lopez, had convictions for car theft, carrying a loaded gun in public and carrying a gun as a felon.
The newspaper also reported that he was arrested in the San Fernando Valley in August 2020 and charged with domestic battery, stealing a car and recklessly fleeing the police, later pleading guilty to domestic battery and fleeing police and sentenced to two years in state prison.
A spokeswoman for the state corrections department declined to release Elena Lopez’s commitment history to The Times, citing the ongoing investigation into the North Hollywood shooting.
Moore told The Times it did not appear that the officer who fired “would have known that there was anyone behind there or that he was looking at anyone other than the suspect and a wall,” but said every aspect of what occurred and why would be analyzed by LAPD investigators.
On Saturday, the League of United Latin American Citizens criticized the shooting.
“It is indefensible that trained Los Angeles police officers could open fire in a crowded store at the height of Christmas shopping without first knowing for sure if the suspect was armed. Also, were they thinking about the danger of their actions to innocent bystanders? If not, they should have, and no apology or any number of words of regret will bring back Valentina,” LULAC National President Domingo Garcia said.
“Everything in their academy training is supposed to teach them to consider the worst-case scenario before drawing their service revolvers. Equally troubling is that this incident is only the latest in a rash of recent LAPD shootings involving Latinos. It is apparent that the days of shoot-first, ask-questions-second are rearing their ugly head again in one of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies,” Garcia said.
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