In Los Angeles, police criticized after death of teenage girl killed during intervention in store

A 14-year-old girl was killed in a changing room by a stray bullet fired by a police officer responding to an assault in the store, Los Angeles police said Monday, Dec. 27, who opened an investigation and released the videos of the incident.

The drama took place on December 23 at a clothing store in North Hollywood, near Los Angeles, where police were called to « An armed attack » in progress, according to the police statement. In her call to the police, a store worker actually indicated that the man was waving a heavy bicycle lock that he was using to try to assault customers. In another emergency call, a client mentioned a gun and shots, but no gun was found at the scene.

On their arrival, the police discovered a woman in blood on the shelves of the store. « Suffering from various injuries » but conscious, a few meters from the suspect. According to on-board camera videos released on Monday, one of the police officers, armed with a rifle, repelled his colleagues armed with smaller arms before immediately opening fire three times on the suspect, fatally injuring him. « Unbeknownst to the police, a 14 year old girl was in a dressing room on the other side of a wall directly behind the suspect » and it was only after the shooting that officers discovered that the teenager had been shot dead.

« Chaotic incident »

According to the first elements of the investigation, « It appears that the victim was struck by a bullet which ricocheted on the ground and penetrated the wall of the dressing room », specifies the police. Valentina Orellana-Peralta was shopping with her mother, and she died  » in the arms «  of the latter when trying on dresses for Christmas, according to a statement from the family released Monday evening.

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore lamented « A chaotic incident which resulted in the death of an innocent child », apologized to the family and pledged to shed some light on « On the circumstances which led to this tragedy ». As such, he asked that emergency calls, radio exchanges, images from on-board cameras and CCTV be made public on Monday.

« Unacceptable »

The man who provoked the intervention, aged 24 and already prosecuted for acts of violence, was first stationed at the foot of an escalator where he had attacked two clients, trying to take their bags . Visibly very agitated and in a daze, we see him on the CCTV images removing his pants before going upstairs. It was there that he attacked a third victim from behind, repeatedly hitting her on the head with his padlock.

One of the main civil rights organizations for Hispanic Americans, Lulac, strongly criticized the conditions under which the police intervened on Monday. « It is unacceptable that Los Angeles police officers were able to open fire in a crowded store at the height of Christmas shopping without knowing for sure whether the suspect was armed », reacted the president of Lulac, Domingo Garcia.

In an incident with similarities, the manager of a supermarket in the Silver Lake district was killed by a police officer in July 2018, when she was the victim of a hostage-taking. The LAPD considered that the shooting had been carried out in accordance with the rules and the prosecutor at the time did not initiate proceedings.

In 2021, Los Angeles police opened fire 38 times and killed 18 people, up from 27 times (and 7 dead) in 2020, and 26 times (and 12 dead) in 2019, according to the count. Los Angeles Times.

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The World with AFP

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