Valentina Orellana-Peralta and her mother were holding each other and praying in the locker room of a clothing store in Los Angeles when a police officer’s bullet tore through a wall and fatally wounded the 14-year-old, according to relatives.
“The girl’s American dream has been taken from her,” Valentina’s uncle, Rodrigo Orellana, told CNN-affiliated Chilevision from their native Chile this week.
“Everyone fled to the locker rooms, and unfortunately the bullet found her,” he said.
“They’re supposed to be the best police department in the world, and they shot her.”
Sir. Orellana referred to the Los Angeles Police Department, which on Monday released edited surveillance camera footage and videos from police body cameras showing the events that led to the killing of the teenager by an officer who shot at a suspect last Thursday.
The video shows a 24-year-old suspect identified as Daniel Elena-Lopez walking into the Burlington Coat Factory store in North Hollywood with his bike and wearing tank top and shorts. He takes the escalator upstairs with his bike.
Moments later, he returns to the escalators wearing a multicolored jacket and long pants before, according to police, swinging his bike lock toward customers. He has been seen attacking several female customers.
Several body camera videos released by police show a woman on the floor covered in blood as officers arrive and try to find the suspect, who according to a police statement on Friday was some distance away.
An officer can be heard on the body camera footage firing three bullets at the suspect, who later falls to the ground. Video shows the officer firing a rifle at the suspect.
Valentina was in a locker room with her mother when a bullet aimed at the suspect passed through the wall and hit the teenager fatally. She was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest, autopsy records show.
Police Captain Stacy Spell said the investigation is in its early stages. The incident will also be reviewed by representatives of the California Department of Justice, the State Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Inspector General, according to Captain Spell.
Anthony Barksdale, a law enforcement analyst from CNN and former deputy police commissioner in Baltimore, said the video raises questions.
“Was the use of the patrol rifle justified?” he asked Monday night on CNN. “And … if you have to fire a (.223) round inside a department store, those cartridges can easily tear through a body and keep moving through drywall. So the use of force has to be looked at.”
Barksdale said the suspect did not appear to be moving toward a victim or an officer when he was shot.
Police released three 911 calls and radio transmissions of the shooting.
Police were called to the scene after several reports of an assault with a deadly weapon and a possible shooting going on in the store.
A call is from a store employee telling the operator that there is an “enemy customer in my store attacking customers” and “breaking things to pieces”.
While on the phone with the operator, she is also repeatedly heard shouting at people to evacuate the store. She explains to the operator that the suspect is using a bicycle lock to attack people.
The suspect died on the spot. A steel or metal cable lock was found near his body, officials said. No firearms were found at the scene.
The assault victim was taken to hospital with head and arm injuries. Police do not believe the woman knew the suspect.
An LAPD official familiar with the investigation told CNN’s Paul Vercammen that they were “aware of reports that a witness said the girl tried on a quinceañera dress with her mother. We are investigating this as part of our investigation.”
The officer who fired the fatal shots is on “paid administrative leave, according to the department’s protocols for officer involved shooting, for at least two weeks,” the official told CNN.
Valentina’s parents are due to hold a press conference demanding openness from the police, while their lawyers are expected to discuss developments in the case.
Valentina’s grandmother, Veronica Larenas, told Chilevision that the teenager had adapted well to life in the United States.
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“She learned English. She was happy. They loved her at school,” Larenas said.