Parents of 14-year-old bystander killed in LAPD shooting make tearful call for justice

The parents of 14-year-old Valentina Orellana-Peralta, a bystander killed by a Los Angeles police officer in a shooting at a Burlington store in North Hollywood on Thursday, stood before LAPD headquarters in downtown L.A. Tuesday with handmade paper signs hanging over their chests.

Justicia para nuestra hija, Valentina,” the signs read. “Justice for our daughter, Valentina.”

Her mother, Soledad Peralta, said she was praying with Valentina in a store changing room, hiding from a man assaulting customers outside, when an LAPD officer opened fire at the suspect and one of the bullets pierced the dressing room wall and killed her daughter.

“We heard screams. We sat down, held each other, and prayed when something hit my daughter and we fell to the floor,” Peralta said in Spanish. “She died in my arms. I couldn’t do anything.”

Battling tears, Peralta said her daughter was full of joy, had big dreams for her future, and “had a lot of life to live.”

“Please give us strength, Valentina, to bring justice to you,” her mother said.

The girl’s father, Juan Pablo Orellana, a bank clerk who had traveled from the family’s native Chile to Los Angeles on Sunday, also held back tears as he spoke about his daughter and the devastation her killing had brought.

“When I got a phone call and heard that my daughter had been killed by the Los Angeles Police Department, my world came tumbling down on me,” he said in Spanish. “I don’t have words to describe what I’m going through.”

Orellana said his daughter wanted to be an engineer, to build robots, and to become a U.S. citizen, but now never will. And he held up a skateboard — the Christmas present his daughter had asked for and now will never receive.

“Look, it’s brand new, it hasn’t been opened,” he said, emotion etched on his face. “I won’t rest until my daughter gets justice.”

The parents spoke alongside several attorneys — including Ben Crump, a high-profile figure in excessive police force cases nationally, whom the father has retained to represent them.

Crump has represented other families caught in the spotlight after police killed their loved ones, including the family of George Floyd, whose killing by Minneapolis police in 2020 sparked global protests over police brutality.

Crump said Tuesday that Valentina’s family wanted the world to know that their daughter “was beautiful, intelligent and had the whole world ahead of her,” and that she “made exceptional grades at an English-speaking school even though English was not her native tongue.”

Crump also said the family wants justice — and will pursue it.

“The family is completely devastated. They are still trying to get past this nightmare. Her father’s still in disbelief. He wants justice as any father would want. She wants justice as any mother would want. What would you want if your baby was killed in this manner? That’s all they’re asking for,” Crump said.

“We should not have to sacrifice innocent life in the name of safety when it was foreseeable that two days before Christmas, that there were going to be people in a shopping plaza shopping,” Crump said. “The family thinks things could have been done differently, to where Valentina wouldn’t have been collateral damage [and] would still be here getting ready to celebrate Christmas.”

The parents spoke before a large picture of Valentina surrounded by a circle of white flowers. Activists also gathered around, some holding “Wanted” signs for the officer who shot Valentina.

Police officials have said the shooting is under investigation, and that the actions of all of the officers involved will be reviewed. They promised the investigation would be thorough, calling the girl’s death tragic.

The California Department of Justice is also investigating the shooting.

The shooting also killed the suspect, 24-year-old Daniel Elena-Lopez, who can be seen in video from the Burlington store attacking multiple people with a bike lock on a chain, seriously injuring one woman.

Elena-Lopez had just beaten that woman with the lock moments before police rushed in and an officer opened fire as Elena-Lopez moved away from the woman and the officer.

Valentina’s aunt, Carolina Peralta, in Chile, said Valentina was born and raised in the working-class neighborhood of Macul in Santiago, Chile’s capital. She was a shy girl, but was happy reuniting with family and her older sister in the U.S., Peralta said.

“My sister does not understand how this tragedy could have happened just when they had managed to reunite the family,” her aunt said.

Special correspondent Jorge Poblete in Santiago, Chile, contributed to this report.

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