Mother of a teenage girl was killed by a police bullet as she tried on a Christmas dress at a mall in Los Angeles closed the LAPD, claiming officers left her daughter to die alone on the floor as they evacuated the others.
Soledad Peralta took 14-year-old Valentina Orellana-Peralta for holiday shopping on December 23 at a Burlington store in North Hollywood, she said at a press conference Tuesday. In a statement translated by attorney Ben Crump, Peralta recalled they were in the dressing room with Valentina when they heard “a noise and a scream.” That’s when Valentina locked the door “to try to protect us,” Peralta said.
“We started to hug each other tighter,” Peralta told reporters gathered outside LAPD headquarters. “We started praying. Pray for peace. Pray for safety. Pray for everyone. Suddenly, we felt an explosion that threw us both to the ground.”
The next thing Peralta remembered seeing was “white powder coming out of Valentina’s body. And she started having seizures.”
She didn’t know her only daughter had been shot, Peralta said.
“Her body was soft. I tried to wake her up by shaking her, but she didn’t wake up… She died in my arms, and there was nothing I could do.”
Peralta said she started screaming for help, but no one came.
“When the police finally arrived, they took me out of the dressing room, and left my daughter lying there,” Peralta said. “I wanted them to help her, but they just left her lying there alone.”
LAPD on Monday released surveillance footage and body camera video in which an officer can be heard firing three shots at suspect Daniel Elena-Lopez, who was armed with a bicycle lock and is believed to have swung at customers inside the store.
Several people inside the store called 911 about Elena-Lopez but gave conflicting information: one caller incorrectly said he was armed and fired.
Another clip shows an officer firing a rifle at 24-year-old Elena-Lopez, who is pronounced dead at the scene. One of the bullets fired by the officers penetrated the wall of the dressing room where Valentina and Peralta were hiding, killing the teenager with a single shot to the chest, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner, the death is considered a homicide.
In one second statement, LAPD Director Michel R. Moore promised a “thorough, complete and transparent investigation.” The California Attorney General’s office is conducting its own independent review, and the California Department of Justice is also investigating.
An LAPD spokesman, Sgt. Hector Guzman, told The Daily Beast that, according to department protocols, the name of the officer involved has yet to be released.
Talking about her family, Crump said Valentina is “beautiful, smart and has the world ahead of her. She got good grades in an English speaking school, even though English is not her mother tongue… She dreams of becoming an engineer, working in technology, building robots to transform the world becomes a better place”.
Valentina’s father, Juan Pablo Orellana-Larenas, said Tuesday that he was at home in Chile when he heard the sad news that his daughter had died. He had planned to fly to America to be with Valentina for Christmas, but he planned her funeral instead.
“All she wanted was to be an American citizen,” Orellana-Larenas said through an interpreter. “And now she is dead by the state, the murderers of the United States of America”
Orellana-Larenas says that Valentina ordered a skateboard from Amazon for her Christmas present. However, he said it came on December 24, the day after she was killed. Now he will take it to his daughter’s grave, “so she can skate with the angels.”
“She wanted to come here in the United States because it is a land of opportunity and she is very excited about it,” said one interpreter after Orellana-Larenas finished his speech. “They were going to see the Lakers… and they had planned to go see the Lakers together. And that will never happen now.”
One online fundraiser started by a relative in Canada has raised a little over $25,000 so far.