Police face charges after stray bullet kills teen girl at department store

·4-min read

The death of a teenage girl in the United States who was killed by a stray bullet fired by a police officer has been ruled a homicide.

Valentina Orellana-Peralta, 14, was struck by a stray bullet on December 23 while she was trying on dresses with her mother in a department store after an officer fired at a suspect on the other side of the wall to her dressing room.

Tragically, the bullet went through the wall and fatally struck the teenager.

Flowers, signs and stuffed toys left outside a shop window with yellow caution tape on the side.
Flowers left outside the store that 14-year-old Valentina Orellana-Peralta was killed in by a stray bullet fired by a police officer. Source: Getty

According to a release from the Los Angeles Police Department, officers found the girl during a search for additional suspects and victims after being struck by one of the rounds fired by an officer at the suspect. 

She was pronounced dead at the scene. 

According to the LA Times, the teenager — who had arrived in the US from Chile six months ago —was trying on dresses for her quinceañera, a Latin American celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday that marks the transition from childhood to womanhood.

The suspect was identified as Daniel Elena Lopez, 24, who also died of a gunshot wound to the chest.

Body cam footage released

The police department released body cam and CCTV footage of the incident on Monday (local time) as well as calls made to emergency services from store workers and customers.

The 35-minute video starts off with calls to the police, describing the sequence of events leading up to the tragic shooting of Valentina.

"I have a hostile customer in my store attacking… attacking customers," the caller said, as she yells for everyone to "evacuate the building."

Screenshot of bodycam footage showing woman with dark hair and clothing on the floor with a man standing at end of aisle in a shop.
Footage released shows the suspect Lopez (top) and the woman on the ground he had allegedly attacked before the police officer fired at him. Source: LAPD

In the security video, Lopez is seen arriving at the shop, wheeling a bike and carrying a metal lock, which he proceeds to leave in the middle of the floor.

According to police, he smashed a nearby computer when a sales assistant approached him about his bike before fleeing.

He attempted to steal a woman's handbag as he fled and when she resisted, tackled her and hit her with the bike lock.

He then tried to attack another woman who got away before beating another woman over the head with a bike lock and dragging her to a change room, continuing to beat her.

The police officer fired three shots at Lopez, who was standing at the other end of the aisle as they approached the woman he had attacked.

"Unbeknownst to the officers, a 14-year-old was in a changing room behind a wall that was behind the suspect and out of the officer's view," LAPD Captain Stacy Spell said in the video released by the department.

"We at the LAPD would like to express our most health-felt condolences and profound regret for the loss of this innocent victim, Valentina Orellana-Peralta."

The Los Angeles County medical examiner-coroner ruled the teenager's death a homicide by a gunshot wound to the chest. The officer who fired the bullet has been placed on administrative leave.

'No words can relieve the pain'

Police Chief Michel R Moore described the incident as "tragic".

“This chaotic incident resulting in the death of an innocent child is tragic and devastating for everyone involved," he said in a press release following the incident.

Valentina (young girl dark hair with glasses) standing behind her mother (light hair) and father (wearing sunglasses, taking the photo) all looking at camera.
Valentina with her mother Soledad Peralta and father Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas. Source: Twitter

"I am profoundly sorry for the loss of this young girl’s life and I know there are no words that can relieve the unimaginable pain for the family.

"My commitment is to conduct a thorough, complete and transparent investigation into the circumstances that led up to this tragedy and provide the family and public with as much information as possible."

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