‘She had big dreams’: parents of Valentina Orellana-Peralta, teen killed by LAPD, speak out
The 14-year-old came to LA from Chile with her mother six months ago, excelled in school and wanted to become an engineer
Valentina Orellana-Peralta, 14, came to Los Angeles from her native Chile earlier this year. She dreamed of becoming an American citizen and an engineer, and looked forward to seeing LeBron James play basketball in person.
But her life was cut short two days before Christmas, when a Los Angeles police officer opened fire at a man inside a department store, and in the process fatally shot the young girl.
Orellana-Peralta’s shellshocked parents, and their attorneys, including civil rights lawyer Benjamin Crump, gathered outside the LAPD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday morning to share stories of their “sweet angel” who died before she could open her Christmas gifts.
“It is like my whole heart has been ripped out of my body,” said Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas, Valentina’s father, who spoke in Spanish, with his lawyers translating. He arrived from Chile over the weekend after his daughter was killed. He held in his hand a skateboard, still in its plastic wrapping, that arrived for Valentina on Christmas Eve, the day after she died. He said he would deliver the board and other Christmas gifts to her grave.
When he spoke to his daughter the day before she was killed, she told her father how excited she was to pass her physics and math exams and how she hoped the two of them could go to a Lakers game in the new year when he arrived to LA.
The parents’ cries for justice, in front of a dozens of cameras outside LAPD, came one day after the department released body-camera footage and surveillance video of the incident last Thursday in which an officer shot and killed Valentina in a Burlington Coat Factory store in North Hollywood while firing at another person. Valentina had been shopping for a Christmas dress with her mother when the officer fatally shot her. Police said the officer’s bullet bounced off the floor and into the store dressing room, and the LA coroner ruled the death a homicide, saying the girl was hit in the chest.
Valentina died on the scene. The man shot by the officer was Daniel Elena Lopez, who had assaulted several customers with a bike lock, and was also pronounced dead at the store. The officer is on paid leave, according to LAPD, who have not identified him. The police video showed that Elena Lopez, 24, was standing away from the officer, at the opposite end of a store aisle, and appeared to be turning away when the officer fired three bullets in rapid succession.
The distraught parents, who could barely get through their remarks at a packed press conference, said that Valentina came to LA with her mother roughly six months ago and had excelled at her high school, High Tech Los Angeles in Van Nuys, despite English being her second language. She was interested in building robots and dreamed of going to college and having a career in engineering or technology “to make the world a better place”, said Crump, the attorney who has represented the family of George Floyd and other high-profile victims of police violence. “Her most important dream was to become an American citizen. They came to America from Chile to get away from violence and to have a better life.”
The girl’s aunt told the LA Times earlier this week that she grew up in Macul, a working-class neighborhood in Santiago, the capital of Chile.
At the news conference, Valentina’s mother, Soledad Peralta, described a horrifying scene at the Burlington store”She had big dreams’: parents of Valentina Orellana-Peralta, teen killed by LAPD, speak outShe had big dreams’: parents of Valentina Orellana-Peralta, teen killed by LAPD, speak out