'She Died In My Arms': Family Of 14-Year-Old Killed By LAPD Shares Account Of Her Death And Demands Transparency
Valentina Orellana-Peralta's favorite color was pink. The 14-year-old dreamed of building robots. She'd moved to the U.S. in June and wanted to go to a Lakers game with her father, Juan Pablo Orellana.
And she'd ordered a skateboard from Amazon to show off to her family. It arrived Christmas Eve, her father said — the day after she was shot and killed by an LAPD officer inside the Burlington store in North Hollywood.
"It's now going to her grave," Orellana said, holding up the skateboard at a news conference on Tuesday in front of the LAPD headquarters in downtown L.A.
Valentina's parents and their attorneys demanded more transparency into the deadly shooting that also killed 24-year-old Daniel Elena-Lopez.
The LAPD on Monday released body camera and security camera video of the fatal shooting. The officer, who has not been named, was aiming at Elena-Lopez, who was suspected of assault. One of the bullets fired passed through a wall into the fitting room where Valentina was with her mother, Soledad Peralta. She said Tuesday that she was holding her daughter in her arms when she died.
Watch the video released by LAPD
The video released Monday shows an officer firing three shots at Elena-Lopez as he turns at the end of an aisle. You can see a wall behind him. He is the length of the aisle away from the officers and a bleeding woman. Store security footage released by the LAPD show Elena-Lopez beating her repeatedly with what police said was a heavy cable lock.
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who is representing Valentina's father, said he believes there is more video footage than what the LAPD published on Monday.
"We want everything released," he said.
A Family Mourns
Valentina's parents arrived to the news conference holding hands with their attorneys and relatives.
Peralta wore a sign that said, "Justicia para nuestra hija, Valentina.” Orellana wore a similar sign in English. “Justice for my daughter, Valentina.”
"What would you want, if your baby was killed in this manner?,” said Crump, who has also represented families in other high profile police shooting cases. “We want justice. We should not have to sacrifice innocent life in the name of safety.”
Valentina's family said her most important dream was to become an American citizen.
"Tragically, that would never happen," Crump said.
Harrowing Account From Mother
In excruciating detail, Peralta, Valentina's mother, described her daughter's final moments. They were in the dressing room of the Burlington store when they heard screaming and a commotion outside. She said Valentina locked the dressing room door to protect them. They hugged and prayed.
When her daughter was hit, Peralta didn't realize it at first until Valentina slumped over. "When she died in my arms, I couldn’t do anything,” she said in Spanish.
Peralta said she screamed for help after her daughter was shot, but no one did. She said that once LAPD officers did show up "they just left her laying there alone.”
Peralta said having your daughter die in your arms is “one of the greatest and most profound pains that any human can imagine.”
In an interview with LAist on the day of the shooting, LAPD's police chief Michel Moore 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 innocent bystanders." He called the shooting “tragic.”
In addition to the LAPD’s Force Investigation Division, the Los Angeles County District Attorney and California Attorney General are investigating the shooting. Under a new law that took effect this year, the attorney general investigates the shooting of all unarmed people by the police.
Elena-Lopez did not have a gun. The video released by the LAPD indicates police did not identify themselves or give him any orders prior to opening fire.
A 'Weird, Awful Club'
Albert Corado, a local organizer whose sister Melyda Corado was killed by LAPD at the Silver Lake Trader Joe's in 2018, came to the press conference to show support for the family.
"It's being part of this weird, awful club that not many people can really relate to," said Corado, who is also running for city council in 2022. "Once the media circus dies down, they're left with the reality like: 'ok, now we actually have to live without this person.'"
A GoFundMe organized by family friends and Orellana's cousins has raised thousands since the deadly shooting.
"Valentina and her mother went to Los Angeles from Santiago, Chile, with the goal of a better life in California just months before her death," the fundraiser stated. "This is yet another case of a senseless use of a deadly weapon by police force in the USA."
On Christmas Day, two days after the shooting, Valentina's father commented in Spanish on a Facebook photo of his daughter: "you were an angel given from God."
"Te amo, mi hija (Spanish for: I love you, my daughter)," wrote Valentina's mother.
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In a memo, Chief Michel Moore said “extremist groups have hijacked the use of the ‘Thin Blue Line Flag’ to symbolize their undemocratic, racist, and bigoted views.”
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.