The parents of 14-year-old Valentina Orellana-Peralta, killed recently during a police operation in a clothing store in the US, are fighting to get the facts on their daughter’s death. The Chilean girl was hit by a stray bullet, fired by police responding to a call. The girl died in a dressing room, in the arms of her mother.
The family of Valentina Orellana-Peralta demands a profound investigation into and complete transparency about the Chilean girl’s death. She died on the spot last week in a store in Los Angeles in California, hit by a stray bullet fired by police, while hiding in a dressing room with her mother.
Bodycam footage released by LAPD shows officers opening fire at close range to stop an unarmed 24-year-old alleged robber, who also died, while the woman he was allegedly assaulting was injured. The footage does not suggest anybody was facing imminent danger, raising questions about the officer’s conduct.
After the shooting, officers found Valentina and her mother in a dressing room. Valentina was hit by a bullet that had ricocheted and penetrated a wall, according to media reports. “Valentina died in the arms of her mother, inside the dressing room,” an aunt of the girl told The Los Angeles Times. “My sister does not understand how this tragedy could have happened just when they had managed to reunite the family.”
Born and Raised in Santiago, Dreaming about Life in the US
Orellana-Peralta arrived six months ago to the US with her mother to visit her sister, who works in Los Angeles. She was born and raised in Santiago’s Macul district, where her father works for a bank. After traveling to the US, Valentina and her mother were trying to get permanent residency. Her aunt said Valentina was already learning English. “She was catching up with English and more outgoing. She was happy to be with her older sister.”
After the shooting, Valentina’s father immediately traveled to Los Angeles. He appeared with his wife outside the LAPD headquarters to give a press conference, accompanied by civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, who also worked on the George Floyd case. “It is like my whole heart has been ripped out of my body,” her father said, according to The Guardian. He held a skateboard he bought for Valentina as Christmas present. He said he will put the skateboard next to her grave when she gets buried on Jan. 3.
Valentina’s father showing a skateboard that arrived for his daughter on December 24, the day after she died. He says he will now leave the skateboard at her grave. pic.twitter.com/5ZlFZFgrjX
— Sam Levin (@SamTLevin) December 28, 2021
Crump, carrying a photo of Valentina, demanded justice. “Never should this 14-year-old little girl [have ended] up as collateral damage at a shopping plaza,” he said, adding that he believes there is more evidence besides the bodycam. “We believe that there’s video, surveillance video, from the Burlington store itself as well. We want all the documentation. Complete transparency. Not just a perspective that tries to justify things. We want everything released,” Newsweek quoted Crump as saying.
The officer who killed Valentina is on paid leave. On his bodycam footage, the alleged robber’s hands are clearly visible. Also, bodycam footage from his colleague shows the officer started shooting immediately upon seeing the suspect, without demanding he submit to arrest.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, a police union, said in a statement, “words cannot convey our utter sorrow over the loss of Valentina Orellana-Peralta. We pray for Valentina’s family as they cope with this unbearable tragedy, and we also pray for the officer involved in this incident as he is devastated over what occurred.”
LAPD captain Stacy Spell told CNN her department will cooperate with all investigations and that the California Department of Justice, the state Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Inspector General will also get involved.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.