Civil rights group demands answers in LAPD shooting of 14-year-old girl at North Hollywood Burlington

The oldest Latino civil rights group in the United States is demanding answers after a Los Angeles police officer, firing at an assault suspect in a North Hollywood Burlington store, killed a 14-year-old girl in a dressing room on the other side of a wall.

“(We) will give you a reasonable amount of time to bring us some answers,” said Domingo Garcia, the national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens in a statement directed at L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Saturday.

“(The League) will not let her death become just another statistic.”

On Dec. 23, an LAPD officer responding to the store at 12121 Victory Boulevard for a call about an assault shot a man who shoppers reportedly saw beating a woman with an object, leaving her face bloodied.

The officer fired at the man, identified as 24-year-old Daniel Elena Lopez, killing him. He did not have a firearm, police said later. They found what they described as “a very heavy lock” near the suspect that may have been used in the assault.

At least one round from the officer’s gun pierced a wall behind the suspect and entered a dressing room, where Valentina Orellana-Peralta was shopping with her mother, reportedly trying on dresses for a quinceañera. Police found the teenager dead inside the dressing room when they searched the store.

“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,” Garcia said in his statement.

“Too often and too quickly, officers are more prone to open fire in our neighborhoods,” he said, noting the store is in a predominantly Latino area. “Would they have done the same thing at the Beverly Hills Center in West L.A. or Westwood? We hardly think so.”

The shooting led to anguish in the community over the girl’s death and increased the scrutiny of deadly shootings by LAPD officers this year.

LAPD officers have shot 37 people so far this year, an increase from the last two years. Officers shot 27 people in 2020 and 26 in 2019. And more police shootings have been fatal this year — 17 dead in 2021, versus 7 in 2020 and 12 in 2019.

“Just since last Saturday, it’s been a total of five people they’ve shot,” said Christian Contreras, a civil rights attorney and a League of United Latin American Citizens advisor.

In L.A. Police Commission meetings this year, LAPD Chief Michel Moore has said the increase is partly due to officers facing more people armed with knives and guns than during 2020. And police are encountering more people appearing to have mental illnesses, about a third of those shot by officers this year.

Contreras has brought numerous use-of-force cases again LAPD and other police departments. He represented the family of Ernie Serrano, who died in December 2020 while being held down by Riverside County Sherriff’s Deputies inside a Jurupa Valley Stater Bros. supermarket.

Contreras said the North Hollywood shooting reminded him of the 2018 case of Melyda Corado, who was working at a Trader Joe’s market in Silver Lake when police chased a man to the storefront.

LAPD officers exchanged gunfire with the man as he ran inside the busy market, hitting Corado and killing her. Then-L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey found two officers who fired their weapons in that incident acted lawfully.

“It’s murky. It’s not a clear line,” Contreras said of the police killings of Corado and Orellana-Peralta.

“Police were called to the Burlington store about an individual who was assaulting people, someone they were supposed to arrest. That turned into a case of reckless disregard for the life of a 14-year-old girl.

“It’s a murky line and you don’t always know when they cross from lawful into unlawful conduct. That makes it difficult to hold individual officers accountable.”

Moore said last week he was ordering a report on the shooting be expedited. He also ordered that video of the shooting from the officer’s body-worn camera be released on Monday, waiving the department’s typical 45-day review period for the footage.

The name of the officer who shot Orellana-Peralta has not been released. Moore said Friday that LAPD would investigate the shooting “from every angle, top to bottom.”

Jose Barrera, the California state director for the League of United Latin American Citizens, said the civil rights group is asking for a meeting with Garcetti and LAPD leaders to discuss the shooting.

“This has been happening all across California,” Barrera said. “Latinos who were shot and killed by police. We’ve been calling for justice … here in Los Angeles, unfortunately, it’s just happened a lot more.”

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