Soledad Peralta could only utter a few words, through tears, until she said: “I can’t take it anymore.”
He was trying to describe this Tuesday how his daughter, Valentina Orellana Peralta, 14, originally from Chile, died on December 23 after receiving a stray bullet from a police officer during a shooting that occurred in a shopping center in Los Angeles, California.
Her brief testimony was heartbreaking: “We heard screams. We sat on a seat, hugging, praying, when something shocked my daughter Valentina,” she said at a press conference on Tuesday.
“And he died in my arms. I couldn’t do anything.”
The girl was the victim of shots fired by an agent of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) last Thursday when neutralizing a man who allegedly committed an assault at the Burlington Coat Factory store, in the North Hollywood neighborhood.
As the LAPD-released video footage of the officers’ cameras shows, the suspect had injured a woman and was cornered near the changing rooms when he was shot by the officer.
But then screams are heard from inside the fitting room where Soledad Peralta and her daughter Valentina were sheltered.
The case has generated great scrutiny over the actions of LAPD agents and demands for justice by the Orellana Peralta family.
“I deeply regret the loss of this young woman’s life and I know that no words can ease the family’s unimaginable pain,” said Police Chief Michel Moore, who promised to investigate the case.
What else is known about the incident?
Los Angeles police arrived at the Burlington Coat Factory store after receiving multiple alert calls about a possible assault with a deadly weapon and notices of shots being fired at the store.
The agents found a subject, identified as Daniel Elena López, and a woman who was injured.
As the police videos show, there were several elements cornered the suspect when one more LAPD agent arrives at the store with a high-powered rifle.
“The victim fell,” a policeman is heard shouting, referring to the woman attacked by the man.
“Hey, slowly, slowly, let me aim the rifle,” says the agent who arrives on the scene, asking his colleagues for space to pursue the suspect.
One tells you that the target is “close to the tester.”
The instant the agent has his sights on the suspect, he fires three shots.
At least one of those bullets went through the wall where Valentina Orellana and her mother were, according to the first investigations.
Officers found the teen dead after seeing a hole in the wall, LAPD Deputy Director Dominic Choi explained. He assures that the girl was never in sight of the police.
Elena López, 24, also died a few minutes later from gunshot wounds. The other injured woman has not been identified.
Demand for justice
Attorney Rahul Ravipudi, who represents the Orellana Peralata family, asked the LAPD to release the entire video of the scene and hold the officer who fired the shots to account.
And it is that the authorities have not shown what happens after the suspect is killed. Only several officers are seen heading to the fitting room while heartbreaking screams are heard in the background.
“There was no weapon, there was no active shooter, so there can be multiple problems, a system failure,” Ravipudi said at the press conference in which the family demanded justice.
The father of the minor, Juan Pablo Orellana, explained that her daughter had been in the US for six months trying to settle in that country.
“All she wanted was to be an American citizen. I said, ‘Let’s get out of this country.’ He told me: ‘No, dad, this country is the safest in the world, the country of opportunities’ “Orellana said between sobs this Tuesday.
The agent has not been identified, but the LAPD said he is off duty pending a review of the case.
In a statement, Chief Michel Moore promised transparency in the investigations and stated that “this chaotic incident that resulted in the death of an innocent girl is tragic and devastating for everyone involved.”
The California Attorney General’s Office, Rob Bonta, reported that it is investigating the incident.
“Seeing your son or daughter die in your arms is one of the greatest and deepest pains that a being can imagine,” lamented Soledad Peralta.
“She was full of joy, she had big dreams for her future. She had a lot of life left to live.”
Now you can receive notifications from BBC Mundo. Download the new version of our app and activate them so you don’t miss out on our best content.