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Valentina Orellana-Peralta was killed by an errant bullet fired by a police officer on Thursday, Dec. 23. Photo: Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images
Valentina Orellana-Peralta was killed by an errant bullet fired by a police officer on Thursday, Dec. 23. Photo: Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

An American dream taken as LAPD release video in the killing of Valentina Orellana-Peralta

The 14-year-old died in a Burlington Coat Factory dressing room the day before Christmas Eve as a victim of an officer’s errant bullet.

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When talking to a Chilean CNN-affiliate in the aftermath of the tragedy involving his niece in a Los Angeles department store, Rodrigo Orellana didn’t mince words on the gravity of losing her.

“The girl’s American dream has been taken from her,” he said.

The day before Christmas Eve, on Thursday, Dec. 23, 14-year-old Valentina Orellana-Peralta and her mother were in a dressing room in a Los Angeles area Burlington Coat Factory when police responded to a call of a suspected assault in the store.

There, they found 24-year-old Daniel Elena Lopez, who was later seen on security footage entering the store with his bike before hitting a woman in the face with his bike lock. He is then shown attacking other customers, sometimes swinging wildly at the air.

Twelve officers in total responded to the store and one with an assault rifle took the lead.

It didn’t last long, as body-camera footage released on Tuesday, Dec. 28 by the Los Angeles Police Department showed the officer firing three shots at Lopez as soon as he arrived in the aisle Lopez was located. 

At least one of the bullets found Lopez, killing him, but one also traveled behind him, through a dressing room wall and into the chest of Orellana-Peralta, who was hiding from the chaos there with her mother. 

Before the ordeal, mother and daughter were there trying on Christmas dresses.

The 14-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene.

In response, the LAPD placed the firing officer on paid leave as an investigation is launched into their conduct, per department protocols.

It is also California law that any police shooting that results in the death of an unarmed civilian be investigated. 

The release of body-camera footage has only added further fire to the flames, as it suggests not even Lopez was armed with a firearm, as was initially thought. It also showed that the officer did not try to make contact with Lopez before firing his weapon in his direction.

Domingo García, president of the League of Latin American Citizens, condemned the officer’s and wider LAPD’s response to Orellana-Peralta’s killing.

“It is indefensible that trained Los Angeles police officers could open fire in a crowded store at the height of Christmas shopping without first knowing for sure if the suspect was armed,” he said.

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