The family of a young teenage girl who was killed two days before Christmas as police in Los Angeles shot recklessly at a suspect in a department store where she was trying on a dress will be legally represented by civil rights attorney Ben Crump as they seek justice for their loss.
Crump and co-counsel Rahul Ravipudi announced on Monday that they had been retained by the family of 14-year-old Valentina Orellana-Peralta, who was reportedly killed in a Burlington Coat Factory dressing room.
Orellana-Peralta’s parents were expected to appear Tuesday morning alongside Crump and Ravipudi for a news conference at LAPD Headquarters.
Orellana-Peralta was with her mother in a dressing room at a Burlington Coat Factory location in North Hollywood when police descended on the store in search of a man who was accused of stalking customers and brutally assaulting them with a weapon. When at least one of the LAPD officers spotted the suspect, Daniel Elena Lopez, shots were fired in his direction, according to the police narrative.
Elena Lopez, 24, was fatally struck. As officers swept the building for any further threats, they came upon Orellana-Peralta and her mother in the dressing room, where they found the teenager had also been hit by at least one police bullet that was fired from an assault rifle, according to a press release from Crump’s office that was emailed to NewsOne.
The LAPD maintains it was a simple mistake. As of Tuesday morning, none of the officers involved in the shooting had been disciplined for their roles in the shooting.
“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,” LAPD Chief Michel R. Moore said in a statement that was accompanied by an edited video from the scene. “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. I have directed the release of the critical incident video by Monday, December 27th, which will include the 9-1-1 calls, radio transmissions, body worn video and any CCTV and other evidence gathered at this preliminary stage.”
It was not immediately clear whether officers violated any LAPD protocol in the shooting. However, one person on Twitter tweeted a graphic about the “4 rules of gun safety” and claimed that the officers involved “failed at the fourth rule”: to “KNOW your target and what is beyond it.”
A new GoFundMe account is accepting funds to help pay for ” travel costs and burdens, funeral costs, potentially legal expenses and other kinds of incidentals.” Orellana-Peralta and her mother immigrated from their native Chile “with the goal of a better life in California just months before her death,” the GoFundMe says. As of Tuesday morning, the GoFundMe was quickly approaching its goal of $30,000.
The GoFundMe also invited people to sign an online petition demanding justice for Orellana-Peralta. It asks for “any tips on who is the Officer who shot Valentina Orellana Peralta.”
Negligence by the LAPD is nothing new.
In one of the more egregious instances of that truth, two elderly men died after the LAPD detonated a large number of explosive materials in a South Los Angeles neighborhood last summer. On June 30, Members of LAPD’s bomb squad attempted to detonate a cache of illegal fireworks but miscalculated the overall weight of the explosives, which exceeded nearly twice the capacity of the containment truck and led to massive damage.
Officers purportedly attempted to evacuate the working-class community of color but missed people who did not answer the door. Their lack of care helped displace dozens of residents and exacerbated the declining health conditions of Auzie Houchins and Ramon Reyes, whose subsequent deaths have been attributed to the lingering effects of the blast.
While Orellana-Peralta’s shooting in Los Angeles did not involve a warrant, it still bore at least one major similarity to Breonna Taylor‘s killing in Louisville last year. That was when local cops botched the execution of a warrant that was being served at an incorrect location. When Taylor’s boyfriend heard someone trying to access her apartment without announcing themselves, he armed himself with his legal gun and shot at the front door. The police responded by blindly shooting into the apartment and killing Taylor.
In an indication of what may be lying ahead as the investigation into Orellana-Peralta’s killing progresses, not a single officer involved in Taylor’s killing ever faced any criminal charges related to her death.