Los Angeles Times
Family of teen killed in store files lawsuit
14-year-old Valentina Orellana-Peralta was a bystander accidentally shot by a Los Angeles police officer.
The parents of Valentina Orellana-Peralta, the 14year-old girl accidentally killed in a Los Angeles police shooting in December, have filed a lawsuit against the city and the officer who fired the shot.
Soledad Peralta and Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas allege that the LAPD failed to “adequately train and supervise” the officers who confronted an assault suspect in a North Hollywood department store. The lawsuit singles out William Dorsey Jones Jr., the officer who fired multiple shots at the suspect, one of which inadvertantly struck Valentina in a dressing room.
“More importantly, within the Los Angeles Police Department, there was and exists a custom, policy and practice ... that fostered an environment that allowed and permitted this shooting to occur,” read the suit, which demands a jury trial and seeks unspecified damages.
Jones is named as a defendant, along with the city, the LAPD and Burlington Stores Inc. On Monday, an LAPD spokeswoman expressed her condolences to the family of Valentina, but said she couldn’t comment on pending litigation, and the city attorney’s office said it hadn’t yet seen the suit and would not comment. Attempts to reach Jones’ attorney were not successful.
The tragedy of Valentina’s death led to an outpouring of grief and an eruption of outrage among police critics, some of whom called for the officer to be charged criminally for his handling of the incident.
Jones was one of several officers who responded to 911 calls that a man, later identified as Daniel Elena-Lopez, was assaulting customers with a metal bike lock inside the store. At least one caller told a dispatcher incorrectly that Elena-Lopez had a gun and had fired it.
Video from body cameras worn by Jones and other officers released by LAPD officials showed the chaotic, harrowing moments before the shooting as Jones and other officers located ElenaLopez in the store’s home goods section.
Jones rushed past other officers, who were urging him to slow down.
“She’s bleeding! She’s bleeding!” Jones screamed as a shopper, who ElenaLopez had beaten with the lock, crawled out of an aisle.
“Hold up! Hold up!” screamed another officer, just before Jones fired three shots in quick succession. Elena-Lopez, 24, was hit and later died. Almost immediately after the shots, a woman’s screams could be heard coming from a nearby changing area, where Valentina had been trying on dresses with her mother.
According to the suit, which was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court this month, Peralta was holding her daughter when she was struck and “felt her daughter’s body go limp and watched helplessly as her daughter died while still in her arms.”
As her daughter lay dying, Peralta was ordered by police to leave the dressing area and wait, for “what seemed like an eternity,” without being given any further information about her daughter’s condition, the suit says. She wasn’t immediately told when her daughter died, the suit says.
The teenager had arrived in the U.S. from her native Chile about six months before her death and had dreams of becoming an engineer and a U.S. citizen.
An autopsy report released last month showed that Elena-Lopez was on methamphetamine at the time of the incident.
Police officials have promised a thorough investigation of the shooting. The California Department of Justice is also conducting an independent investigation.