Los Angeles officer who killed a teenage girl in a shooting in Burlington got nonprofit to help low-income children

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles police officer who opened fire in a Burlington department store days before Christmas and killed a suspect in an assault and a 14-year-old girl in a locker room was identified on Thursday as a veteran of the force who also ran a non-profit for low-income children.

Los Angeles police identified William Jones, who was assigned to the North Hollywood area of ​​the country’s second largest city, as the officer who fired at least three shots with his long rifle. He has worked in the department for about a dozen years, according to a profile published last year by the University of Louisville, his alma mater.

The LAPD released an edited video package online Monday that included 911 calls, police radio transmissions, body camera footage and surveillance video from the December 23 shooting. The series of footage showed the suspect’s erratic movements in the store, his attacks on several customers and the moment Jones fired his weapon. The 911 calls show that the police received conflicting information, first being told that the suspect assaulted people with a bicycle lock and later that the suspect may have been armed and shot inside the store.

Soledad Peralta and Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas, the parents of Valentina Orellana-Peralta, are attending a press conference outside the Los Angeles Police Department's headquarters on Tuesday.

Soledad Peralta and Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas, the parents of Valentina Orellana-Peralta, are attending a press conference outside the Los Angeles Police Department’s headquarters on Tuesday.

In the footage, police officers – including Jones – gave no commands to the suspect, who was shot down the aisle from a bloody assault victim. He could be seen holding the metal bicycle lock he was using at the time of the assault and a work of art when he was shot. No firearms were found.

The LAPD said one of Jones’ bullets pierced a wall behind the suspect and hit Valentina Orellana-Peralta, 14, who was in a locker room with her mother trying on Christmas dresses. Valentina fell to the ground, started getting cramps and died in her mother’s arms.

“I tried to wake her up by shaking her, but she did not wake up,” the teenager’s mother, Soledad Peralta, said in a statement read at a press conference this week.

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Valentina Orellana-Peralta

Valentina Orellana-Peralta

Footage released by police shows Jones was asked to “slow down” more than a dozen times by other responding officers before shots were fired. He has been put on administrative leave, the department confirmed to USA TODAY.

Tom Saggau, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents LAPD officers, told USA TODAY that Jones had been a modeling officer before the shooting.

Jones launched a nonprofit with his wife, called Officers For Change, aimed at helping children in low-income households, he said. The charity primarily collected and requested donations from other officers, allowing them to distribute school supplies and backpacks prior to the school year, Saggau said. In his spare time, Jones also helped coach a football team, he added.

“There would not be a department in the country that would not want him as a police officer,” Saggau said. “This was horrible and tragic. But this was not an officer with an obvious character flaw or anything.”

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Jones grew up in Kentucky and moved to Los Angeles in 2006 to work in the entertainment industry, according to the profile published online by the University of Louisville.

He became interested in police work while out in the West and completed his communication training online while working with the LAPD, the profile says. The story, published in December 2020, notes that he “spent eight years on patrol and the last three years working as a community leader.”

Police yellow tape blocks the scene where two people were shot in a Burlington store in North Hollywood, California, on December 23rd.

Police yellow tape blocks the scene where two people were shot in a Burlington store in North Hollywood, California, on December 23rd.

Saggau said inaccurate reports of an active shooter likely fueled a mindset that officers needed to quickly stop the threat to prevent death. In these situations, he said, officers were preparing for the worst case, which is why Jones came prepared with a long rifle instead of a less lethal weapon.

Since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, police departments across the country have changed procedures and protocols for responding to active shooters. Instead of securing an area and waiting for backup, law enforcement has been trained to engage immediately on the spot.

A bulletin sent in 2003 to all Los Angeles police officers, which the LAPD confirmed to U.S. TODAY is still valid, defined an active shooter as an armed person, “who has used deadly force on other people and aggressively continues to do so while have unlimited access to additional victims. “

Flowers and balloons are left Monday at a temporary memorial to the teenage girl who was killed by a stray police bullet at a Burlington store in North Hollywood, California.

Flowers and balloons are left Monday at a temporary memorial to the teenage girl who was killed by a stray police bullet at a Burlington store in North Hollywood, California.

While the suspect, identified by police as Daniel Elena Lopez, 24, was not armed with a gun, officers can be heard in released police footage saying he was in the middle of attacking a woman in the seconds before they approached.

The bulletin noted that officers need to “assess the situation objectively, assess their options and act accordingly.” It notes a range of dangerous situations, from suspects actively shooting to those holding hostages, and says that misunderstandings of the term active shooter had caused “a premature response” with rapid deployment tactics used in an active shooting situation.

An active shooting presentation from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which has jurisdiction over a large area around the city, notes that the primary goal when law enforcement officers contact a suspect is to “stop the suspect’s deadly behavior” and “take the suspect into custody” with least possible force. Officers should “give clear and precise orders to the suspect.”

On why Jones did not shout any commands to the suspect, including dropping weapons or coming out with his hands up, Saggau said that will be the focus of investigators.

“None of us know what went through that officer’s head,” he said. “I would never dare to put myself in the position of the officers. They will be lots of research and questions, but what the public should do is try to put themselves in that officer’s place at that moment.”

Contributor: Mary Ramsey, Louisville Courier Journal

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Los Angeles police ID officer who killed teenage girl in Burlington shooting

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