Active shooter protocols were being followed in a police shooting at a North Hollywood clothing store that led to the death of a 14-year-old girl in a dressing room who was struck by a stray bullet, the police union said Monday.
Valentina Orellana Peralta was shopping for Christmas clothes Dec. 23 when she was struck by a stray bullet fired by Los Angeles police who opened fire on a man attacking shoppers. A bullet went through an exterior wall of the dressing room and struck the girl, police said.
Valentina died at the scene in her mother’s arms.
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Police responded to the Burlington store after receiving a report of an assault with a deadly weapon suspect attacking people. That weapon turned out to be a bike lock and cable.
On their way to the scene, officers also received reports of an active shooter, police said.
Tom Saggau, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said Monday that LAPD Officer William Jones had completed mass casualty active shooter training about two weeks before the shooting, NBC News reported. Officers followed those protocols because of the reports of a person with a gun, he said.
No gun was found at the scene.
"The conflicting 911 calls, some said he's got a bike lock, he's got a chain... but the other information that made its way was that he's got a gun and he's shooting," Saggau said. "You can have conflicting witnesses calling 911, and the officers have to prepare for the worst-case scenario. The worst-case scenario was gun, shooting in a store, that's an active shooter protocol immediately."
Police released edited body camera and security video of the chaotic series of events at the store. The video shows a man attacking people, dragging a woman in the store and a group of officers, one with a rifle, moving toward the attacker.
Officers can be heard saying, "Slow down, slow down." Saggau said: "They’re actually trained to say that as an act of communication amongst each other. It wasn't directed towards Officer Jones."
"Slow down" is a reminder to keep your head on a swivel to look for threats all around, Saggau said. He said the formation Jones and the officers were in was part of the active shooter protocol.
After hearing screams outside the dressing room, Valentina locked the dressing room door, her mother said at a news conference.
“We sat down on a seat, holding each other, praying, when something hit my daughter, Valentina, and threw us to the floor,” Soledad Peralta said. "And my daughter died in my arms. I couldn’t do anything.”
The 24-year-old suspect, Daniel Elena Lopez, died at the scene. The woman who was assaulted had moderate to serious injuries, including wounds to her head, arms and face. She has not been named publicly.
Jones is on administrative leave.
“He is just devastated,” Saggau said. “A lot of the kids that he worked with in his nonprofit were Valentina’s age. What he’s struggling with is that could have been any one of the kids that he worked with.”
In a statement, Los Angeles police said officers did not know the dressing room was occupied. Valentina was found after the shooting during a search for additional attackers.
The teen's family stood outside Los Angeles Police Department headquarters last Tuesday, next to a large photo of Valentina wreathed in flowers, to call for justice and remember their daughter. Speaking in Spanish and choking back tears as sirens wailed in the background in downtown LA, they said they had left Chile to get away from violence and injustice in search of a better life in the U.S.
The LAPD last week posted the edited video package online that included 911 calls, radio transmissions, body camera footage and surveillance video from the shooting at a store crowded with holiday shoppers. The department’s policy is to release video from critical incidents, such as police shootings, within 45 days.
The family's attorneys — including civil rights lawyer Ben Crump — have sent a letter to the LAPD asking for more video.
“At this preliminary phase of the investigation, it is believed that the victim was struck by one of the rounds fired by an officer at the suspect,” police Capt. Stacy Spell said in the posted video. Police believe the bullet skipped off the floor and struck the dressing room wall.
The California Department of Justice is also investigating.
“We at the LAPD would like to express our most heartfelt condolences and profound regret for the loss of this innocent victim, Valentina Orellana Peralta. There are no words that can describe the depth of the sorrow we feel at this tragic outcome,” Spell said in the video.
NBCLA's Jonathan Lloyd contributed to this report.