The parents of a 14-year-old girl killed by Los Angeles police in a clothing store last year have filed a lawsuit against the department and the officer whose rifle round pierced a dressing room wall.
Valentina Orellana Peralta and her mother were shopping for Christmas clothes Dec. 23 at a Burlington store in the San Fernando Valley’s North Hollywood neighborhood. They were inside a dressing room when they heard screams. The pair got down on the ground and locked the door.
Elsewhere in the store, 24-year-old Daniel Elena Lopez was behaving erratically and wielding a bike lock. Surveillance footage showed him attacking two women, including one he beat to the ground. The footage showed him dragging the woman’s body through a home decor aisle near the store’s dressing rooms as she tried to crawl away.
Responding to 911 calls, Los Angeles police walked through the store in a formation, body camera video shows. Officer William Dorsey Jones Jr., wielding a rifle, pushed to the front of the pack even as other officers repeatedly said “slow down” and “slow it down.”
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The officers saw one of the injured women crawling on the bloodstained floor and Lopez on the other side of the aisle near the dressing rooms, according to the video footage. “Hold up! Hold up!” another officer screamed just before Jones fired three shots.
One of the bullets pierced the dressing room wall and struck Orellana Peralta as her mother, Soledad Peralta, held her. Peralta “felt her daughter’s body go limp and watched helplessly as her daughter died while still in her arms,” the lawsuit says.
Police ordered Peralta to leave the dressing room and wait for “what seemed like an eternity,” according to the lawsuit. She was not told her daughter had died.
Her family, who had left Chile to escape violence and injustice in search of a better life in the U.S., remembered Orellana Peralta as a happy teen with many friends who loved sports, adored animals and excelled in school.
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Her father, Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas, and Peralta say the LAPD failed to adequately train and supervise the responding officers and “fostered an environment that allowed and permitted this shooting to occur,” the lawsuit says.
Lopez was shot and killed by police. An autopsy showed he was on methamphetamine at the time of his death.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on July 14, alleges wrongful death and negligence, as well as negligent infliction of emotional distress, and seeks a jury trial and unspecified damages. In addition to the LAPD and Jones, the lawsuit names the city of Los Angeles and Burlington Stores Inc. as defendants.
The LAPD declined to comment Tuesday, and it was not immediately clear whether Jones had an attorney who could speak on his behalf. The city attorney’s office and Burlington Stores did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The California Department of Justice is investigating the shooting, as is the LAPD.
Contributing: Christal Hayes, USA TODAY