Los Angeles police officers shot and killed a 14-year-old girl who was inside a Burlington store in North Hollywood on Thursday as officers opened fire on a suspect who assaulted a woman earlier, the department said. The suspect was also killed.
The LAPD believes the girl was struck by a stray bullet that passed through a dressing room wall, CBS Los Angeles reported. The 14-year-old was identified by the L.A. County Coroner’s Office Friday as Valentina Orellana-Peralta.
The woman who had been assaulted was taken to the hospital with what officials described as moderate to serious injuries to her head and face. Witnesses told the station that a man who was acting erratically struck her with a bicycle lock.
Officers got to the store, which was crowded with holiday shoppers, shortly before noon Thursday after receiving 911 calls reporting an argument and shots fired, LAPD officials said.
“As the officers were responding, they arrived at this location and began a search, looking for a suspect,” said LAPD Captain Stacy Spell. “While conducting that search for a suspect, the officers encountered an individual who was in the process of assaulting another and an officer-involved shooting occurred.
The suspect, later identified as 24-year-old Daniel Elena Lopez, was killed, and one of the bullets went through drywall behind him and struck the girl, who was in a changing room with her mother, police said.
Asked if the girl was shot by police, LAPD Assistant Chief Dominic Choi said, “Preliminarily, we believe that round was an officer’s round.”
He called it a “tragic and unfortunate sequence of events.”
Investigators did not find a gun at the scene. They said a “steel or metal cable lock, a very heavy lock,” found near the suspect may have been used in the assault.
“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 recordings of the 911 calls, store security video and police body-cam footage will be released by Monday.
The California Department of Justice is investigating the shooting, Attorney General Rob Bonta said.