Valentina Orellana Peralta was shopping with her mom at the Burlington in North Hollywood Thursday afternoon when she was fatally struck by a stray bullet as police fired at an assault suspect, 24-year-old Daniel Elena-Lopez of Los Angeles. The young girl was inside a dressing room at the time of the shooting.
In the video released Monday, the suspect can be seen grabbing and hitting multiple people on store surveillance, including dragging one person behind a counter. In police body camera footage, one officer is seen at the head of the group, with a rifle. The officer approaches an aisle near the changing room, one of the victims bleeding on the floor. The suspect is seen at the opposite side of the aisle. The officer then fires three shots.
One of those shots hit Peralta in the chest. On Monday, the coroner's office confirmed that she died from a gunshot wound to the chest. On Monday, the family released images of the 14-year-old.
"When I first heard the news, it just took your breath away. To realize that an innocent life of a 14-year-old young girl that had such a promising life to be taken… it’s just tragic," LAPD Chief Michel Moore told FOX 11 in an exclusive interview on Friday.
Valentina Orellana Peralta was shopping with her mom at the Burlington in North Hollywood Thursday afternoon when she was fatally struck by a stray bullet as police fired at an assault suspect. (Orellana-Peralta Family)
The police chief said that he directed the release of the critical incident video by Monday, which will include the 911 calls, radio transmissions, body-worn video and any CCTV and other evidence they gathered over the weekend. A specific time for the release was not immediately available.
Burlington Coat Factory shooting
On Dec. 23, police responded to the department store located in the 12100 block of Victory Blvd. around 11:45 a.m. after receiving calls of an assault with a deadly weapon in progress. Stacey Spell with the
Los Angeles Police Department Media Relations said Thursday that while officers were en route to the store, they received additional calls of shots fired.
As officers searched for the assault suspect, they found a female victim suffering from various injuries who was bleeding. They encountered the suspect a short distance away, and at some point, opened fire on the suspect. The suspect was taken into custody and pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
According to the LAPD, the 14-year-old girl was found dead with a gunshot wound inside the store's dressing room. Authorities said the dressing room was directly behind the suspect, and a bullet penetrated the wall of the dressing room, striking the girl.
"Preliminary, we believe that round was an officer's round," Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Dominic Choi said during a news conference Thursday.
The case leaves many questions unanswered, like why just one day before Christmas, in a crowded department store, did police need to open fire?
FOX 11's Susan Hirasuna asked Chief Moore that very question last week.
"We will do everything within our power to gather as much information, to gather interview accounts of everyone that was involved in this tragic event to understand what the actions of the suspect were inside the store prior to arrival, as well as what his actions were that led up to the moment in which an officer used his firearm and shot, resulting in the death of that suspect, that individual as well as unfortunately, this is an unintentional victim," Moore told FOX 11. "Our efforts are to not make judgment without all the facts, without information that allows us to understand the circumstances."
Moore continued, "And then look at our training, look at our policies, our expectations of our people and make them with all the information that is known and evaluation as to the act, the judgment, the officer, the actions, the officer and others took. And just in trying to understand how this all unfolded. I want to ask for the public's help [with] their patience. We do not want to rush to judgment, make some broad statement — in any fashion — that is not supported by facts and circumstances."
The California Attorney General’s Office will be investigating the officer-involved shooting and will independently review the case.
Chief Moore said in a statement, "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 California Department of Justice is also investigating the shooting.
Once the investigation is completed, it will be turned over to the California Department of Justice’s Special Prosecutions Section within the Criminal Law Division for an independent review.