Valentina Orellana-Peralta, 14, got here to Los Angeles from her native Chile earlier this yr. She dreamed of changing into an American citizen and an engineer, and appeared ahead to seeing LeBron James play basketball in particular person.
However her life was reduce brief two days earlier than Christmas, when a Los Angeles police officer opened fireplace at a person inside a division retailer, and within the course of fatally shot the younger lady.
Orellana-Peralta’s shellshocked parents, and their attorneys, together with civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, gathered outdoors the LAPD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday morning to share tales of their “candy angel” who died earlier than she might open her Christmas presents.
“It’s like my complete coronary heart has been ripped out of my physique,” mentioned Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas, Valentina’s father, who spoke in Spanish, along with his attorneys translating. He arrived from Chile over the weekend after his daughter was killed. He held in his hand a skateboard, nonetheless in its plastic wrapping, that arrived for Valentina on Christmas Eve, the day after she died. He mentioned he would ship the board and different Christmas presents to her grave.
When he spoke to his daughter the day earlier than she was killed, she advised her father how excited she was to move her physics and math exams and the way she hoped the 2 of them might go to a Lakers sport within the new yr when he arrived to LA.
The parents’ cries for justice, in entrance of a dozens of cameras outdoors LAPD, got here someday after the division launched body-camera footage and surveillance video of the incident final Thursday by which an officer shot and killed Valentina in a Burlington Coat Manufacturing unit retailer in North Hollywood whereas firing at one other particular person. Valentina had been looking for a Christmas gown along with her mom when the officer fatally shot her. Police mentioned the officer’s bullet bounced off the ground and into the shop dressing room, and the LA coroner dominated the loss of life a murder, saying the lady was hit within the chest.
Valentina died on the scene. The person shot by the officer was Daniel Elena Lopez, who had assaulted a number of clients with a motorcycle lock, and was additionally pronounced useless on the retailer. The officer is on paid go away, based on LAPD, who haven’t recognized him. The police video confirmed that Elena Lopez, 24, was standing away from the officer, on the reverse finish of a retailer aisle, and gave the impression to be turning away when the officer fired three bullets in speedy succession.
The distraught parents, who might barely get by their remarks at a packed press convention, mentioned that Valentina got here to LA along with her mom roughly six months in the past and had excelled at her highschool, Excessive Tech Los Angeles in Van Nuys, regardless of English being her second language. She was eager about constructing robots and dreamed of going to varsity and having a profession in engineering or know-how “to make the world a greater place”, mentioned Crump, the lawyer who has represented the household of George Floyd and different high-profile victims of police violence. “Her most vital dream was to turn out to be an American citizen. They got here to America from Chile to get away from violence and to have a greater life.”
The lady’s aunt told the LA Times earlier this week that she grew up in Macul, a working-class neighborhood in Santiago, the capital of Chile.
On the information convention, Valentina’s mom, Soledad Peralta, described a horrifying scene on the Burlington retailer.
They had been Christmas purchasing, and Valentina was attempting on clothes once they heard a commotion and screams within the retailer. Valentina locked the door of the dressing room, her mom mentioned in a press release translated by her attorneys: “Valentina and I hugged one another … and began praying, praying for peace, praying for security, praying for everyone.” The gunshot that hit Valentina felt like an “explosion” that knocked them each to the ground. She didn’t initially notice her daughter had been shot, and Valentina rapidly went limp, she mentioned.
“She died in my arms and there was nothing I might do … She didn’t get up,” she mentioned. “As I lay screaming for assist, the police didn’t come to assist me or my daughter. However I stored screaming. When the police lastly got here, they took me out of the dressing room, and left my daughter laying there. I needed them to assist her. However they simply left her laying there alone.”
LAPD declined to reply questions on Tuesday about whether or not officers or paramedics offered any medical help to Valentina.
“She was full of pleasure and he or she had big goals for her future. She had quite a bit of life to reside,” Soledad Peralta mentioned. “Valentina meant the world to us, to our household, to her buddies and to her schoolmates. And now our candy angel has left ceaselessly. Please give us energy, Valentina, to make justice for you.”
Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas mentioned when he spoke to his daughter on the telephone the day earlier than she died, the 2 mentioned they’d rejoice her achievements at school when he arrived to LA: “She needed to be right here in america as a result of that is the land of alternative.” The daddy mentioned he hadn’t slept since he realized a police officer killed his daughter final week.
The parents had been surrounded by supporters and activists protesting LAPD, some calling for the officer to face prices, and others calling for LAPD to be defunded. Crump and the opposite attorneys mentioned they had been urging the division to be clear and to protect information, and mentioned their investigation was ongoing.
The movies launched on Monday fueled additional nationwide outrage. Regardless of police’s preliminary claims that officers had been responding to an “assault with a lethal weapon” and a “potential capturing in progress”, Elena Lopez didn’t have a gun, and the video reveals his palms had been seen the second he was shot. An officer’s physique digicam footage confirmed that as quickly because the officer made it to the shop aisle the place Elena Lopez was standing and noticed the person for the primary time, he instantly fired, with out showing to problem any instructions.
LAPD killings have sharply elevated this yr – the division has fatally shot 18 individuals in 2021, in contrast with seven in 2020, based on the LA Times. The California lawyer basic is investigating the killing, and LAPD mentioned its investigation into the Burlington killings was ongoing and have declined to reply questions.