LOS ANGELES (CNS) — One day after 14-year-old Valentina Orellana Peralta was laid to rest, the Los Angeles Police Commission heard a status update on the LAPD’s internal investigation into her accidental shooting by an officer’s stray bullet — one of multiple investigations that are expected to take months.
The LAPD’s Force Investigation Division and Inspector General’s Office are both investigating the shooting, along with the California Department of Justice’s California Police Shooting Investigation Team for Southern California.
Once the investigation has been completed, the results will be turned over to the California Department of Justice’s Special Prosecutions Section within the Criminal Law Division for independent review.
Deputy Chief Michael Rimkunas on Tuesday, Jan. 11, briefed the police commission on what is to follow during the LAPD’s investigation into the shooting of Valentina.
At the end of January, 30 days after the Dec. 23 shooting, the Investigation Division will provide a briefing on the status of the investigation to the Office of the Inspector General and Rimkunas. The briefing will include a PowerPoint presentation with video, audio, key witness statement and an accounting of all relevant evidence, Rimkunas said. The Office of the Inspector General will have a chance to ask questions and raise concerns.
Thirty days later, or toward the end of February, all relevant audio and video from department personnel will be reviewed in detail a second time to determine if there were any deviations in department policy and procedure that were not related to the use of force. If a deviation is found, the concerned bureau’s commanding officer will be informed of the break from policy.
About 240 days after the Dec. 23 shooting, or toward the end of August, the Los Angeles Police Department’s administrative investigation will be reviewed and the completed report on the investigation will be distributed.
About 30 to 45 days after that report is distributed, around the end of September and beginning of October, a Use of Force board will be convened to issue recommendations to the Los Angeles Police Chief, who will use the recommendations in his report that he submits to the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Inspector General will complete its independent investigation into the shooting and submit a report to the Board of Police Commissioners for review.
The main criminal case, however, is being investigated by the California Department of Justice in compliance with Assembly Bill 1506. The Los Angeles Police Department requires the state’s approval before releasing information to the City Council and the public.
“They’re inclined to work with us and they want to do everything they can in regards to transparency and working with us to get more information out as it becomes available, but we have to work through them and work with their chief to see what they would deem appropriate to be released as long as it didn’t jeopardize the investigation,” Rimkunas said.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore said the LAPD’s administrative investigation could be more expansive than the criminal investigation, because the department can order officers to provide a compelled statement or be subject to removal, while the state’s criminal investigation can only seek voluntary statements from officers.
Valentina, who moved to Los Angeles from Chile six months before the Dec. 23 shooting, was killed in a dressing room while shopping with her mother for a Christmas dress. The police were responding to a report of an active shooting and also fatally shot the suspect, 24-year-old Daniel Elena Lopez, who did not have a gun.
“There is nothing normal about shooting so recklessly that a young teenage girl looking to live the American dream — that was shopping with her dear mother Soledad possibly getting a Christmas dress — ends up being dressed for her funeral. This could have been my daughter. This could have been your daughter. And if we don’t stop it, it will be your daughter or my daughter. This must stop,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said while delivering her eulogy on Monday.
“…We must make new laws, we must make new training. Those who do not know how to go into department stores … and not shoot like this is the wild, wild west, must be held accountable,” Sharpton said.
The ceremony, which took place at the City of Refuge Church in Gardena, focused heavily on calling for justice and change in the wake of the shooting.
Valentina’s parents said their daughter — a student at High Tech Los Angeles Charter School — had dreams of becoming a robotics engineer and an American citizen, and going to see a Los Angeles Lakers game with her father.
“She always told us that her greatest dream was to become a US citizen … She wasn’t going to rest until she had her dream fulfilled. She always told us that this country, it was the safest country in the world. Unfortunately she was mistaken. She only came to this country to face her death,” Juan Pablo Orellana, Valentina’s father, said through a translator.
Calling for justice for his daughter, Orellana said, “They have destroyed us as a family, as parents … it only gives us the desire to live, that the flag of our cause, justice for our daughter Valentina … give us strength to continue this fight. We know that we’ll win, and only we will live a little bit with peace, knowing that your death was not in vain.”
Attorney Rahul Ravipudi, noting that Valentina’s family came to the US to be in a country where they thought Valentina would be safe and protected, spoke about what he believed Valentina’s legacy would be.
“With Valentina’s spirit guiding us, we will expose that truth, hold accountable those that are responsible for her death and implement changes that will allow all Americans, all immigrants and everyone to feel that same American dream, the one where we’re raising children in a place that we feel safe and protected, that is the cause of Valentina,” Ravipudi said.
A translator speaking on behalf of Valentina’s mother Soledad Peralta — who gave a tearful speech about her daughter — said, “She’s trying to understand what was her daughter’s purpose, but she thinks that it was a mission of peace and of love.”
LAPD Officer William Jones, who shot Valentina while confronting the suspect, has been placed on administrative leave while authorities investigate the shooting. The officer’s union said that Jones had recently completed a course on how to handle an active shooter situation and was following his training.
Police fatally shot 24-year-old Daniel Elena Lopez — who did not have a gun — but a bullet fired by Jones pierced a wall and struck Valentina.
Lopez had entered the store with his bicycle and started randomly attacking customers with a bike chain lock, leaving one woman bloodied on the floor as officers arrived on the scene.
The LAPD released body camera and surveillance footage of the entire violent incident, and a coalition of civil rights groups has called for Jones to be arrested and prosecuted for involuntary manslaughter.