LOS ANGELES – 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 on 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 and Orellana Peralta locked the door.
Elsewhere in the store, 24-year-old Daniel Elena Lopez was behaving erratically and wielding a bike lock. He brutally attacked two women, including one who fell to the floor before he dragged her by her feet through the store’s aisles as she tried to crawl away.
Following 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.”
The officers saw a woman crawling on the blood-stained floor and Lopez on the other side of the aisle, according to the video footage. “Hold up! Hold up!” another officer screamed just before Jones fired three shots.
One of the bullets went through the dressing room wall and fatally 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 states.
Police ordered Peralta to leave the dressing room and wait for “what seemed like an eternity," according to the lawsuit. She was not told that her daughter had died.
Her family, who had left Chile to get away from 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.
Her father, Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas, and Peralta allege that LAPD failed to adequately train and supervise the responding officers and "fostered an environment that allowed and permitted this shooting to occur,” the lawsuit states.
“Filing this lawsuit is the first step for Soledad and Juan Pablo in seeking the transparency and justice promised to them by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti following the fatal shooting of their daughter, Valentina," the family's attorney, Rahul Ravipudi, said in a statement Tuesday.
Ravipudi added: "It is their deepest hope that those responsible for her death will be held accountable and that changes will be made to LAPD policies, practices, and standards for using deadly force that will prevent yet another senseless tragedy at the hands of law enforcement.”
Lopez was also shot and killed by police. An autopsy report 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 also names the city of Los Angeles and Burlington Stores Inc. as defendants.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore on Tuesday offered his condolences to Orellana Peralta's family.
“The loss of her life is tragic,” he said. “It re`mains a point of grief for us as well.”
The lawsuit alleges that Burlington Stores Inc. staff failed to use the store's intercom and “made no effort to address his increasingly violent and erratic behavior or warn any of the customers inside the store that they may be in danger.”
The company declined to comment on the litigation Tuesday but said in a statement that “our customers’ safety and well-being is of paramount importance to us.”
It was not immediately clear whether Jones had an attorney who could speak on his behalf. The city attorney's office said it was reviewing the complaint.
The California Department of Justice is investigating the shooting, as is the LAPD.