LAPD officer won't be charged for shooting that killed teen inside Burlington store, state AG says

City News Service
Wednesday, April 17, 2024
No charges for LAPD officer involved in 2021 shooting that killed teen
An LAPD officer won't be charged in a 2021 shooting that killed a teen girl inside a Burlington store, state AG Rob Bonta says.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- The state Attorney General's Office announced Wednesday it will not pursue any criminal charges against a Los Angeles Police Department officer involved in a December 2021 shooting inside a North Hollywood Burlington store that killed an assault suspect and a 14-year-old girl who was struck by a stray bullet inside a dressing room.

The teen, Valentina Orellana Peralta, was killed Dec. 23, 2021, while shopping with her mother -- trying on Christmas dresses -- at the store at 12121 Victory Blvd. The girl was in a second-floor dressing room when a bullet fired by Officer William Jones passed through a wall and struck her.

"This case was a particularly challenging one to process as this involved the loss of two lives," Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement. "Any loss of life is a tragedy, and my heart goes out especially to the family of Valentina Orellana Peralta, who tragically lost her life and whose only involvement in this incident was by being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The California Department of Justice remains steadfast in our commitment to working together with all law enforcement partners to ensure an unbiased, transparent, and accountable legal system for every resident of California."

RELATED: Groups call for arrest of LAPD officer involved in Burlington store shooting that killed 14-year-old

Police had gone into the store in search of a suspect who assaulted multiple people with a metal bicycle lock. That suspect, 24-year-old Daniel Elena Lopez, was also killed. Police said at the time that a bullet fired at the suspect ricocheted off the floor then passed through a far wall, entering the dressing room where it struck Valentina.

The teen died in the arms of her mother, who said she and her daughter had sat down and hugged when they heard the commotion in the store. The force of the gunshot that struck Valentina threw them to the ground.

"As I lay screaming for help, the police did not come to help me or my daughter, but I kept screaming," Valentina's mother, Soledad Peralta, said at a news conference days after the shooting. "When the police finally came, they took me out of the dressing room and left my daughter laying there. I wanted them to help her, but they just left her laying there alone."

Police at the time released body-camera footage of the encounter, which began when officers responded to reports of a man assaulting people and possibly firing shots inside the Burlington store.

The video included footage showing the assault suspect viciously attacking a woman on the second floor of the Burlington store, repeatedly beating her with a steel or metal cable bike lock, leaving her bloodied on the floor as officers arrived.

Body-camera video also captured the sound of police gunfire quickly ringing out as officers spotted the suspect -- with the cable lock in his hand.

More than a half-dozen officers descended on the suspect after the shots are heard, and the injured suspect was taken into custody, and later pronounced dead at the scene.

While the video showed the suspect with the cable lock in his right hand, there was no indication he was armed with a gun. Police said no gun was found at the scene.

The video released by the LAPD included audio from a series of 911 calls. In one call, a store employee tells a dispatcher a suspect is in the store attacking people with a bike lock. In another, a woman reports the sound of shots being fired in the store, saying there's "a guy with a gun."

Another caller reported that her mother was hiding inside the store because of a man making threats. She added, "I don't know if he has a gun, I don't know what he has, but they're hiding."

According to the Attorney General's Office, investigators "concluded that the evidence does not show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the officer involved acted without the intent defend himself and others from what he reasonably believed to be imminent death or serious bodily injury. Therefore, there is insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution of the officer. As such, no further action will be taken in this case."

The AG's Office did recommend that the LAPD consider making changes to "improve lines of communication in response to 'immediate action and rapid deployment' scenarios."

At the news conference with their attorneys days after the shooting, Valentina's parents said their daughter came to Los Angeles from Chile about six months earlier and had dreams of becoming an engineer, an American citizen and going to see a Los Angeles Lakers game with her father.

"She wanted to be here in the United States because this was the land of opportunity, and she was excited about that," attorney Erica Contreras said, translating for Valentina's father, Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas.

"The only thing that he has left for him now is to seek justice for his daughter. He will not rest until justice for his daughter is served," Contreras added.

Valentina attended High Tech Los Angeles Charter School, where she had just passed her math and physics exams.

The family later sued the city.

The city Police Commission ruled in 2022 that the officer violated department policy in the shooting. The panel determined that the first shot he fired was within policy, but the second and third were not. Then-Chief Michel Moore determined that Jones "inaccurately assessed" the threat posed by the suspect, saying he should have been able to ascertain that he was not dealing with an active shooter.

The shooting prompted a series of protests decrying police shootings, and activists called for the arrest and prosecution of the officer involved. City Councilman Paul Krekorian at the time called the teen's death an "unspeakably horrendous tragedy."