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Parents say girl, 14, was praying with mother in dressing room when killed by stray LAPD bullet

Valentina Orellana-Peralta was hugging her mother and praying in a locker room at a Los Angeles store when she was fatally hit by a stray bullet from the LAPD, the girl’s mother, Soledad Peralta, said.

The distraught mother struggled to get her statement across in Spanish at a press conference outside LAPD headquarters on Tuesday, supported by her family and lawyers. The couple were shopping for Christmas in Burlington at 12121 Victory Blvd in North Hollywood when a 24-year-old Los Angeles resident with a long criminal history began attacking people in the store.

“We heard screams,” Ms Peralta said on Tuesday, crying as she described how she hid and prayed with her daughter. Responding LAPD agents, shown in footage released by the department on Monday, entered the store, armed with handguns and a rifle. They found the suspect, Daniel Elena Lopez, in an alley, armed with a bike lock after assaulting a woman lying bloody on the ground.

The officer holding the rifle fired three shots, killing Elena-Lopez. Almost immediately, a woman can be heard moaning nearby; Valentina had been an innocent victim, hit by a bullet which, according to the LAPD, ricocheted off the floor and went through the locker room wall.

When Valentina was hit, her mother initially did not know what had happened, she said on Tuesday.

“She died in my arms,” ​​she said, upset. “I could not do anything.”

Valentina’s father, Juan Pablo Orellana, arrived from Chile and also spoke at the press conference. He described receiving the phone call from Ms Peralta with the news, which left him in shock – especially when he heard the bullet was coming from an LAPD pistol.

Valentina, he said, loved America and always told her it was “the safest country in the world.”

She dreamed of becoming a U.S. citizen and had only been in California for about six months when she was killed.

“They came from Chile to America to flee violence and injustice, to have a better life in America,” lawyer and advocate Ben Crump, who has championed the cause of the family, told the conference on Tuesday. Press. “As her aunt … says, they can’t believe this happened in America.”

Family lawyer Rahul Ravidudi told the press conference that they sent a letter to the LAPD asking for full transparency and disclosure of all videos “so the LAPD does not lead the narrative on what ‘they did.

“We can expose this truth ourselves,” he said. “We sent this letter, we sent it immediately to make sure that all of this evidence will be saved.”

Ms Peralta also took issue with the manner in which officers acted in the aftermath of the incident on Tuesday, according to her statement read in English by Mr Crump.

“His body has become limp; I tried to wake her up by shaking her, but she didn’t wake up, ”she said in the statement. “While I was lying there crying for help, the police did not come to help me or my daughter. But I kept on screaming.

“When the police finally arrived, they took me out of the locker room and left my daughter lying there. I wanted them to help her, but they just left her lying alone.

The LAPD on Monday released audio and body camera footage from 911 from the day of the incident showing Elena-Lopez acting erratically and attacking people in the store. Footage shows him entering with a bicycle, becoming increasingly enraged as he tries to toss it and destroy property, then attacking buyers with his heavy bicycle lock.

After police shot him down, only the bike lock – no gun – was found on his body.

Valentina’s cousins, writing on the GoFundMe page, said they were “overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, compassion and kindness that you have all shown to Valentina’s immediate family. Please continue to share Valentina’s story as we continue to seek justice.

The incident is under investigation by the California Department of Justice and the California Attorney General’s Office. The firing officer, who has not been identified, has meanwhile been placed on administrative leave with pay.

“This chaotic incident resulting in the death of an innocent child is tragic and devastating for all involved. I am deeply sorry for the loss of the life of this young girl and I know that there are no words that can ease the unimaginable pain for the family, ”LAPD chief Michel Moore said last week in a statement.

The justiceforvalentina.com campaign, which is linked to GoFundMe, demands “that manslaughter charges be brought against the officers who recklessly opened fire (sic) and shot dead an innocent 14 year old child.”

Valentina’s tragic death has become another rallying cry for #SayHerName, #BlackLivesMatter and similar hashtags, particularly as advocates wonder why a man wearing a bike lock, not a gun, hasn’t been disarmed rather than shot. A memorial dedicated to the teenager has emerged outside the Burlington store, which remains closed.

A GoFundMe set up by the girl’s cousins ​​had already raised more than $ 27,500 as of Tuesday morning, while an online petition, justiceforvalentina.com, had gathered more than 445 of 5,000 signatures.

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