By STEFANIE DAZIO
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The coroner’s office has identified the 14-year-old girl who was fatally shot by Los Angeles police Thursday when officers fired on an assault suspect and a bullet went through the wall and struck the girl as she was in a clothing store dressing room.
Police also fatally shot the suspect Thursday morning at a Burlington store in the North Hollywood area of the San Fernando Valley, police said.
The Los Angeles County coroner identified the girl as Valentina Orellana-Peralta and the suspect as Daniel Elena Lopez, 24. Online coroner records show their autopsies have been completed and their causes of death were both a gunshot wound to the chest.
LAPD officers have shot at least 37 people — 17 of them fatally — in 2021 after another police shooting occurred on Friday, according to the Los Angeles Times. Those figures mark a dramatic rise in cases where officers shot or killed people in either of the last two years — 27 people were shot and 7 of them killed by LA police in all of 2020. In 2019, officers shot 26 people, killing 12.
In the last week, LA officers have killed four people — including two men in separate incidents on Saturday, the newspaper reported.
On Thursday, witnesses in North Hollywood told KCBS-TV that the man began acting erratically, threatening to throw items from the upper floor, and he attacked a woman with a bicycle lock shortly before noon as the store was crowded with holiday shoppers.
Officers answered a report of an assault and others of shots being fired, police said. Investigators have not found a gun at the scene.
The suspect was shot and died at the store but one of the bullets went through drywall behind the man and killed the girl, who was in a changing room with her mother, police said.
Officers found the teenager dead after seeing a hole in “a solid wall that you can’t see behind,” LAPD Assistant Chief Dominic Choi said.
Investigators didn’t immediately know whether she was in the dressing room before the violence began or ran in there to hide, he said.
“This chaotic incident resulting in the death of an innocent child is tragic and devastating for everyone involved,” Police Chief Michel Moore said in a statement late Thursday night. “I am profoundly sorry for the loss of this young girl’s life and I know there are no words that can relieve the unimaginable pain for the family.”
Moore promised a “thorough, complete and transparent investigation” into the shooting and said a critical incident video that will include 911 calls, body camera and other video will be released by Monday.
The woman who was attacked is not being identified.
Investigators were trying to determine whether the assault was random or targeted. Choi said they don’t believe the teenager was related to the person who was attacked.
Police found a heavy metal cable lock near the suspect, Choi said.
The California Department of Justice was investigating the shooting, Attorney General Rob Bonta said.
News reports showed a woman with a bloodied face, who appeared to be the assault victim, being placed in an ambulance.
The victim was taken to the hospital with moderate to serious injuries, Fire Department spokesperson Nicholas Prange said. Choi said she had wounds to her head, arms and face.
On Friday morning, the Times reported that the Burlington store remained closed even though it was supposed to open at 7 a.m.
Multiple signs posted in Spanish and English that read “closed until further notice!!!” greeted would-be shoppers as others left flowers and a flickering candle in a memorial for the teen outside the store.
Edwin Arroyo, supervisor of Nancy’s Cleaning Services, told the Times he discovered blood smeared on a wall in the dressing room, as well as on a cream-colored dress left on a hanger.
“It was a horrible scene,” Arroyo, a father of daughters ages 12 and 18, told the newspaper. “I don’t know how many gunshots there were, but there was a lot of blood everywhere.”
The shooting recalled a July 21, 2018, confrontation in which LAPD officers accidentally shot and killed a woman at a Trader Joe’s market. Officers got into a gunfight with a man who authorities say shot his grandmother and girlfriend before leading police on a chase that ended when he crashed his car outside the market.
A police bullet killed Melyda Corado, 27, the assistant store manager, as she ran toward the store’s entrance after hearing the car crash.
The suspect, Gene Evin Atkins, took employees and shoppers hostage for three hours before surrendering, authorities said.
Atkins has pleaded not guilty to the killing.
Prosecutors found two police officers acted lawfully when they returned Atkins’ gunfire.