Five LAPD killings in nine days: teen deaths brutally cap years of police shootings | Los Angeles

Tthe murder of Valentina Orellana-Peralta, a 14-year-old who died in her mother’s arms after police shot her in a department store locker room, has sparked outrage and a re-investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department.

Yet her death was just one of five killings committed by the LAPD over a period of nine days this month, marking a brutal end to a year that has seen repeated scandals in one of America’s largest police departments.

This year, the LAPD killed more than double the number of civilians than in 2020. And while it is unclear what is driving the increase, activists claim that LAPD officers have been encouraged to use lethal force in careless and unjustified ways after seen their colleagues face little, if any, consequences.

“The tactic is to shoot first and ask questions later,” said Jose Barrera, director of the California League of United Latin American Citizens.

Over the past week and a half, the LAPD shot six people, including Orellana-Peralta. Five of the people shot by the LAPD around the Christmas holidays have died and no one was armed with weapons, according to official reports.

The killings added an already bleak year for the LAPD’s use of deadly force. By 2021, the LAPD has shot 38 people and killed 18 of them, according to the LA Times. In 2020, the department shot 27 people and killed seven of them. Those numbers corresponded to 2019, when the LAPD shot 26 people and killed twelve.

“There’s just a ruthless disregard for human life,” said Christian Contreras, a local civil rights lawyer representing the family of one of the civilians killed by the department this month. “We are dealing with a huge increase in police shootings and killings of black and brown people. It is out of control.”

A deadly Christmas week

The shootings, and in particular the death of the teenage spectator, have attracted national attention in the department, which has faced continuing accusations of unjustified killings, racial profiling and violations of civil rights.

In most cases, police have released few details about the people they killed and why police resorted to lethal force. But even with the limited information available, critics say the circumstances do not indicate that lethal force was deserved.

Rosendo Olivio Jr.
Rosendo Olivio Jr. Photo: lent by Christian Contreras

December 18, LAPD officers lethally shot two people in separate incidents – both involving men who allegedly hold knives. In the first incident, the LAPD said officers in the Newton Division in South Central responded to a call after a “suspect in domestic violence” in an apartment complex, described as a “man in his 30s.” A spokesman said officers on arrival found Rosendo Olivio Jr., 34, who “fit that description.” Police alleged Olivio held a “folding knife” and butane lighter and shouted swear words and threats, and that an officer shot him and killed him as he “ignored commands”.

But Contreras, a lawyer representing Olivio’s family, said it was unclear if Olivio was the suspect in the original call and that his family has questioned whether he was involved. Holding a pocket knife was not a justification for killing him, Contreras added.

Olivio’s shocked family struggled to deal with the news and LAPD statements presenting their loved ones as a violent criminal, the lawyer said. Olivio was the father of four who lived in a neighborhood where police have been involved in repeated scandals about killing civilians. (Officers in the LAPD’s Newton division have used the nickname “Shootin ‘Newton” for years.) And although the LA Police Commission ruled that police officers violated the policy in two other recent LAPD killings in southern LA, officers have not been charged.

“The police are investigating themselves … and justifying the behavior of their colleagues,” Contreras said. “The system is designed to cover abuse.”

Table titled LAPD shootings and killings. The agency has killed significantly more people this year. 38 shot by LAPD in 2021 with 18 killed. 27 shot by LAPD in 2020, with 7 killed. 26 shot by LAPD in 2019, with 12 killed.

In the second killing on December 18, the LAPD too alleged that a man with a knife ignored commands, but in the department’s statement it did not say anything about whether he had threatened anyone.

On December 23, the LAPD killed two people in a Burlington Coat Factory store in North Hollywood: a 24-year-old man who had a bicycle lock and had assaulted several customers, and Orellana-Peralta, the 14-year-old who was in a locker room .

Video of the shooting showed an officer immediately firing at the man from a distance, without appearing to have given any commands. One of the officer’s bullets hit the girl, who was buying Christmas dresses.

Civil rights activists questioned why an officer with a combat rifle appeared to fire at 24-year-old Daniel Elena Lopez, who did not have a gun, without attempting to de-escalate and without assessing whether spectators could be threatened.

A man squats down to place incense sticks at a Valentina Orellana-Peralta memorial in front of the Burlington Coat Factory building.
Los Angeles police killed two people at a Burlington Coat Factory store in North Hollywood on Dec. 23. Photo: Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times / REX / Shutterstock

Valentina’s mother, Soledad Peralta, said the shot hit them both to the ground and that police ignored her cries for help. When the LAPD found them in the locker room, officers removed her from her daughter and “just left her there alone,” she said. The LAPD declined to comment on her allegations.

So Christmas Eve, LAPD shot a man who allegedly fired a gun into the air; he survived but was in critical condition. And on December 26, an officer fatally shot a man who was at a gas station and allegedly had a knife.

The LAPD did not respond to Guardian inquiries about the increase in homicides.

‘LAPD creates danger’

Lawyers argued that the increase in homicides was part of a pattern of abuse this year that required systemic change.

Other controversies involving the LAPD in 2021 included: officers detonating seized fireworks in southern LA, destroying part of a neighborhood and 22 residential properties; officers allegedly buying stolen weapons; officers accused of mistakenly branding civilians as gang members; officers who do not wear masks in violation of Covid policies but do not face any discipline; the department promotes inaccurate data on its traffic stops; and revelations about the agency’s use of surveillance technology, which led to a reprimand from Facebook.

Officials have called for a number of LAPD reforms during the pandemic, including initiatives that send mental health professionals to respond to certain calls, extended de-escalation education and community programs designed to build relationships and restore trust.

But the steady stream of scandals, activists said, illustrated how the department fails to prioritize public safety and how reforms have not prevented harmful practices.

“The LAPD is the one creating the danger,” said Albert Corado, whose sister Mely was killed by the LAPD in 2018 in a shootout with similarities to the Burlington case. She was working as a manager in a Trader Joe’s store when an officer shot at a suspect and killed her in the process.

His sister’s death could have been a turning point for the LAPD, he said. But instead, the cycle of killings and unanswered calls for justice continues, even after the inventory prompted by George Floyd’s death.

“We have been in this moment many times in LA and across the country. Every few months we say we are so sad for this person and the LAPD needs to be managed and it does not happen,” Corado said. they are not a hell of a thing. All of these people are dead, and we have not yet done anything truly significant in a way that will make sense to the victims. “

Corado is running for city council and is in favor of defining the LAPD and abolition by the police. Proponents of deforestation argue that the best way to reduce police violence is to cut the LAPD’s budget, limit their interaction with society, and reinvest funds in services. He said he was tired of conservatives defending the police at all costs, as well as Democrats continuing to increase law enforcement budgets while pushing modest reforms that have failed to stop the killings.

The LAPD and its supporters have recently pushed for more resources, citing concerns about rising crime, including high-profile robberies and retail thefts. However, the data paint a more complicated picture; Homicide has increased, reflecting national trends during the pandemic, but property crime has generally declined.

Latora Green, a lawyer who attended the press conference for Orellana-Peralta’s parents on Tuesday, said she hoped more people would come together to press to define: “It’s the whole system that needs to be dismantled.” No degree of responsibility can bring the 14-year-old victim back, she added: “What exactly is justice when you lose someone?”

Corado also came to the press conference to offer support to the grieving parents. He said he wanted them to know they were not alone – that there was a network of families across LA who have suffered similar tragedies.

Leave a Comment