Dec 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

LAPD use of deadly force under scrutiny after teen shot by stray bullet

A makeshift memorial for the teenage girl who was killed by a police stray bullet at a Burlington coat factory in North Hollywood, California, December 27.
A makeshift memorial on Tuesday for Valentina Orellana-Peralta, the 14-year-old girl who was killed by a police stray bullet at a Burlington Coat Factory in North Hollywood, Calif. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Police Department released video and audio footage Monday showing events that led to the shooting death of a 14-year-old girl by an officer firing at a suspect in a store last week.

Why it matters: Last Thursday's shooting of Valentina Orellana-Peralta at the Burlington Coat Factory store in North Hollywood, whose death was ruled a homicide from a gunshot wound to the chest, has reignited "intense debate" in Los Angeles about the police role in "keeping communities safe," the New York Times notes.

  • LAPD officers have fatally shot 18 people in 2021 — more than twice as many as the previous year, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The big picture: The California Department of Justice is investigating the shooting, which authorities said occurred when officers fired on an assault suspect and Orellana-Peralta was struck by a stray bullet while in the clothing store dressing room. The suspect, Daniel Elena-Lopez, 24, was also killed.

  • An officer who was placed on administrative leave following the incident hasn't been identified, per USA Today.

Driving the news: The edited videos of the surveillance camera and police body camera footage authorities released Monday shows the suspect attacking several customers before an officer opens fire.

  • One officer can be heard telling the others to "slow down" before the shooting.
  • Police also released three 911 calls, including one report of "a guy with a gun."

What they're saying: LAPD Captain Stacy Spell said at a briefing that officers found "a female who was suffering from various injuries and bleeding" as they conducted a search at the store before the shooting.

  • "They encountered the suspect a short distance away, and an officer-involved shooting occurred," Spell said.
  • LAPD Chief Michel Moore apologized in a statement Friday for the teenager's death. "This chaotic incident resulting in the death of an innocent child is tragic," Moore said.

Between the lines: LAPD policy stipulates, "Officers may use deadly force only when they reasonably believe, based on the totality of circumstances, that such force is necessary in defense of human life."

  • San Francisco police commission member John Hamasaki, a criminal defense lawyer who's been involved in reviewing footage of police killings, told the Guardian there was no evidence from the video that police had tried to deescalate the situation before the shooting.
  • "Deadly force is the last option on the table," Hamasaki said.
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