LAPD Chief Says Officers Shot And Killed A Teen In Store Dressing Room. The Gunfire Went Through A Wall
The LAPD says it believes officers fatally shot a 14-year-old girl inside the Burlington department store in North Hollywood on Thursday afternoon. The fatal shooting happened as officers were firing on a man suspected of attacking someone.
That man was also killed.
The girl was identified on Friday as Valentina Orellana-Peralta.
In an interview with our newsroom, LAPD Chief Michel Moore called the incident the "worst thing anyone can imagine." He emphasized that the investigation is still underway but said his department wants to be as transparent as possible about what they know so far.
According to LAPD officials, officers were responding to reports of possible shots fired inside the store when they opened fire on a man on the second floor, killing him.
"A subsequent search of the upper floor we found a hole in the wall. We went behind it. It turned out to be the dressing room. And what we did is we were able to locate a 14-year-old female who was found deceased in that dressing room," said Assistant Chief Dominic Choi. "These are tragic and unfortunate sequence of events."
Choi says officers found a steel metal cable lock near the man they shot, but no gun.
He said the shooting was captured on the officers' body cameras and store security cameras, and the department is reviewing the video.
LAPD officers have opened fire on people 37 times this year — compared with 27 times last year.
What We Know So Far
The LAPD said the initial report of an assault with a deadly weapon came at about 11:45 a.m. Thursday. That call, according to a news release, was followed by "multiple radio calls from the same location that there was a possible shooting in progress and that there were individuals sheltering in place."
When officers arrived at the store in the 12100 block of Victory Blvd. they found "a female who was suffering from various injuries and bleeding." That person was taken to a hospital for treatment.
LAPD officials said when officers located the alleged assailant he was shot and killed by police. That gunfire went through a wall and into the dressing room where Valentina was shopping with her mother. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Moore, in his interview with our newsroom, said officers are expected to quickly respond to threats "and to do everything possible to stop that threat from continuing as far as the surroundings and by innocent bystanders."
He said they are also expected to be aware of what's going on around them and potential harm to bystanders.
Moore said in this case, based on what he had learned to date, the officer who fired believed there was a wall behind the man.
"Unbeknownst to the officer," Moore said, "was on the other side of that wall was this changing station... and that it appears that one of the rounds fired, went through that wall and struck and killed this young girl."
In 2018, LAPD officers shot and killed Trader Joe's store manager Melyda Corado as they fired at a man who had led pursuing officers on a wild chase ending at the Silver Lake store. At the time, Moore called it a no-win situation and said it was "a heartbreaking reminder of the split-second decisions that officers must make every day."
For Albert Corado, however, Melyada's brother, the news about Orellana-Peralta's death immediately brought back memories of his sister.
“My dad had sent me the article and we talked on the phone about it because it was very similar to what happened to my sister Mely,” he told LAist. “It also happened in my hometown of North Hollywood in a shopping center that I went to a lot as a kid with with my sister. So it was very surreal.”
Albert is running for LA City Council, and has called for the defunding of police.
“There has been no, no sort of significant improvement in the way that LAPD handles these situations. And so three-and-a-half years later, we have a 14 year old dead girl who was in a store,” he said.
Corado's family has sued the department. The L.A. District Attorney's office declined to file charges against the officers who killed her, and the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office concluded that the officers acted lawfully and did not file any charges.
California State Attorney General Rob Bonta has announced that his office will investigate and independently review the shooting.
“Following notification by local authorities, the California Department of Justice’s California Police Shooting Investigation Team for Southern California deployed to the scene of the OIS,” said Bonta in a statement.
Once the investigation is complete, it’ll be turned over to the state’s Department of Justice’s Special Prosecutions Section for review.
In addition, Moore said he has "directed the release of the critical incident video by Monday, December 27th, which will include the 9-1-1 calls, radio transmissions, body worn video and any CCTV and other evidence gathered at this preliminary stage.”
A new law that took effect in July of this year requires that all fatal police shootings of an unarmed civilian be investigated by the state's Department of Justice.
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LAPD Chief Moore also questioned officers' actions in the fatal shooting of Takar Smith, although not in two other fatal incidents.
In a conversation with LAist, the new sheriff acknowledges that, as an outsider, "I have my work cut out for me" in winning the support of the department's rank-and-file.
He was elected in 2018 after running as a progressive Democrat who would reform the department. He ended up fiercely resisting oversight and clashing with watchdogs and the rest of the county’s political establishment.