Family, friends and community activists gathered in southern California on Monday for the funeral of Valentina Orellana-Peralta, the 14-year-old fatally shot by a Los Angeles police officer while Christmas shopping with her mother.
Valentina was struck by a stray bullet December 23 in the dressing room of a Burlington store in the North Hollywood neighborhood. The officer initially fired at a man suspected of attacking a woman in the store, authorities said.
Valentina, who came to the US with her mother last year from Chile, was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest, coroner records show.
The shooting came as activists and politicians continuously call for reforms in policing and use of force policies. The speakers at Valentina’s funeral raised this theme as well as the irony of a family immigrating to what the young girl described as “the safest country in the world.”
Rahul Ravipudi, attorney for Valentina’s mother and sister, said her parents “sacrificed their lives, their sense of community in Chile and were working on immigrating to the United States so Valentina could have the American dream, an opportunity to become the best person she could be, to contribute to society the best way that she could.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton delivered Valentina’s eulogy and discussed the need for police reform.
“Now we must — in the name of Valentina — give justice and change how we do policing. We must make new laws, we must make new training,” Sharpton said. “Those that don’t know how to go into a department store during Christmas and not shoot like this is the wild, wild west must be held accountable. They must put value on human life.”
Sharpton also spoke to the socioeconomic and racial variables of the shooting. He said a reporter told him Valentina was Chilean and the officer who shot her was Black.
“The circumstances of nationality and race (are) important. It’s important because we need to make it clear that we don’t just fight for our own, because we all are our own — whether you are from South Central, Harlem or Chile. Right is right and right must stand up for those that are right,” Sharpton said.
“The fact that the officer was Black does not mean we don’t want a thorough, intense investigation and let the evidence lead to where he is held accountable like any other officer.”
Sharpton wondered aloud if the shooting would have happened had it taken place “in another area and another income level and another race.”
“She deserves the same value as if she was a superstar on a lot in Hollywood making people millions of dollars. Her life matters to us. That’s why we’re here,” he said.
Sharpton was in Los Angeles more than three decades ago, calling for the same police reforms after officers were caught on camera beating Rodney King.
“Through those 31 years, we keep seeing LAPD get it wrong,” Sharpton said. “And here we are again. How long will it take for you to get it right?”
LAPD released videos of the fatal shooting
Los Angeles police released edited surveillance footage and police body camera videos of the shooting December 27, four days after Valentina’s death.
The video shows a 24-year-old suspect identified as Daniel Elena-Lopez entering the Burlington store in North Hollywood with his bike and wearing a tank top and shorts. He takes the escalator upstairs with his bike.
Moments later, he returns to the escalators wearing a multicolored jacket and long pants before swinging his bike lock at customers, according to police. He is seen attacking several female customers.
Several body camera videos released by police show a woman on the floor covered in blood as officers arrive and attempt to find the suspect, who, according to a police statement on Friday, was a short distance away.
An officer can be heard on the body camera footage firing three bullets toward the suspect, who later falls to the ground. Video shows the officer firing a rifle at the suspect.
The suspect died at the scene. A steel or metal cable lock was found near his body, officials said. No firearm was recovered from the scene.
The officer’s bullet ripped through a wall, fatally wounding Valentina.
The officer who fired the fatal shots is on “paid administrative leave, per department protocols for officer involved shootings, for at least two weeks,” a police official told CNN.
Soledad Peralta, Valentina’s mother, described clutching her daughter and praying in the dressing room moments before the girl was struck by a round from a police rifle. Peralta told reporters in December she remembered taking cover after hearing screams while shopping for a Christmas dress for the girl.
Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas, Valentina’s father, flew to Los Angeles from Chile and told reporters he had planned a trip to California for the holidays. He had hoped to take his daughter to a Lakers game.
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