By the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol
Representatives of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) demanded “Justice for Valentina Orellana-Peralta,” at a press conference on Tuesday, Dec. 28.
The organization also accused Los Angeles police of being “reckless” in the shooting death of the teen inside a Burlington store in North Hollywood last week.
“What I want to say to those in Los Angeles, to my community in the San Fernando Valley: we cannot let Valentina be another statistic. We need justice for Valentina,” said Kimberly Fuentes, LULAC, policy and communications director.
Fuentes said her family had shopped at that Burlington store, and that her brother and sister went to elementary school just up the street.
Orellana-Peralta, 14, was shopping in Burlington with her parents on Dec. 23 when a man who had entered the store attacked a woman with a steel or metal bicycle lock that was attached to a chain. When police arrived, shots were fired during the confrontation with the suspect. One officer’s stray bullet went through a dressing room wall where Orellana-Peralta was, killing her.
The suspect — eventually identified as Daniel Elena Lopez, 24 — was wounded in the battle with police and later died.
On Christmas Day, LULAC representatives first criticized the shooting as being “indefensible” for police to open fire in the middle of a store without knowing if the suspect was armed with a gun.
On Tuesday, the responses remained direct and confrontational.
“[We see] victims of tragic shootings where we see tactics…where officers are shooting first and asking questions later,” said Jose Barrera, LULAC state director, speaking in front of the store with other civil rights and activist groups standing alongside in support.
”We want to put an end to that tactic. We want to make sure there is a full report when it comes to this particular case. When it comes to civil rights, far too many times…our community members, our communities of color, our Latino brothers and sisters are fallen victims to tragic shootings — which, many times, is no fault of their own. They are innocent bystanders [caught] in a tragic situation.”
LULAC statewide legal advisor Christian Contreras, a civil rights attorney based in Los Angeles, also condemned LAPD’s handling of the incident on Tuesday.
“We’re here today to outcry and decry the deadly use of force that has been implemented by the Los Angeles Police Department for far too many years,” Contreras said.
“This is not a ‘cause’ of reckless use of force, it is a symptom of a system which allows officers who are bloodthirsty or murderous — and who want to shoot and kill people at a whim — and this is a result.”
Contreras went on to say that what happened “was not the individual officer’s fault,” but continued to lay blame on the “system within the Los Angeles Police Department which allows officers, encourages officers, and promotes officers who shoot and kill individuals — particularly Latinos and Black individuals — here in the City of Los Angeles.”
“We’re here calling for justice. We’re here for meaningful reform. And we’re here to tell LAPD and the city of Los Angeles [to] show some dignity. To care about the people which live in your own jurisdiction. Because if we don’t do it, if our community doesn’t call out an injustice, no one else will,” Contreras said.
LULAC and the other civil rights and activist group representatives called for a meeting with Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAPD Police Chief Michel Moore to discuss reforming LAPD’s use-of-deadly-force training and policies.
As of Dec. 24, LAPD officers had shot at least 37 people in 2021, killing 17 of them, substantially more than in either of the past two years, according to the Los Angeles Times. Four of those people were shot and killed in December.
A GoFundMe page established to benefit the teen’s family had raised more than $42,000 as of early Wednesday morning. If you want to donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/justice-for-our-valentina-orellana-peralta?qid=19aa1543662f33f1acc567a41bed649b