Update: The Los Angeles Police Department officer who fired on an assault suspect at a North Hollywood department store and accidentally killed a 14-year-old girl has been identified. Two sources tell the Los Angeles Times that William Dorsey Jones Jr., who is currently on paid leave, is the officer. Journalist Cerise Castle says he has been with the department since at least 2011. Our original story from Wednesday follows:
Valentina Orellana-Peralta was trying on dresses when the 14-year-old and her mom heard a disturbance outside the changing room at a Burlington store in North Hollywood. They locked the door, and then "we sat down and hugged and started praying," the teen's mom said at a press conference Tuesday, per NBC News. "When something impacted my daughter Valentina, it threw us on the floor, and she died in my arms, and there was nothing I could do." Her parents say their daughter was "collateral damage" from an LAPD shooting the day before Christmas Eve that could have been handled differently, their attorney, Benjamin Crump says. When an officer fired at the man assaulting customers in the store, a bullet went through the wall of the dressing room and struck Valentina, killing her.
The teen came to the US from Chile with her mother and sister just six months ago, CNN reports. Her father had planned a Christmas trip to the US, but instead came to mourn the death of a daughter who had dreamed of designing robots one day as an engineer. Her father held up the skateboard they had ordered her as a Christmas gift, which arrived in the mail the day after she died. "The pain of opening Christmas presents that have been delivered for Christmas Day cannot be articulated," he said. "All she wanted was to become a American citizen," he added, per the Hill. "I once told her, let's leave this country. 'No, papa,' she said. 'This is the safest country in the world, a country of opportunity.' Now my daughter is dead at the hands of the state."
The officer who fired the shot has been placed on paid administrative leave while an investigation is carried out. In the moments before he started firing, other officers told him more than a dozen times to "slow down," USA Today reports. The LAPD has released video of the incident, and no officer can be heard giving a command to the suspect before shots were fired. Legal experts say the use of deadly force will need to be looked at, since the suspect was armed with nothing but a bike lock and did not appear to be moving toward a victim or police at the time, and the officers did have nonlethal weapons with them. Instead, the unnamed officer fired a patrol rifle. "If you're going to fire a (.223) round inside of a department store, those rounds can easily rip through a body and keep right on moving through dry wall," says one former cop. (Read more Los Angeles Police Department stories.)