LOS ANGELES – A woman gripped her bloodied face in a red-spotted driveway as she walked away from a man who hit her with a bicycle lock. A frightened employee at the Burlington clothing store told Los Angeles police that a man had “gone mad” in the store.
“I have a hostile customer in my store who attacks customers! She told dispatchers on a 911 call. “He walks around the store looking for people.” Someone else called in a “guy with a gun” report.
A melee of officers mounted the escalators in diamond-shaped formation, weapons in hand. Moments after spotting the man, later identified as Daniel Elena Lopez, 24, at least one officer opened fire.
As Mr. Elena Lopez lay injured on the ground, a woman’s cries of anguish could be heard. They appeared to come from the nearby changing rooms, where 14-year-old Valentina Orellana-Peralta had been with her mother. In what police now say was a tragic accident, she too was fatally shot by an officer.
The scene unfolded in chaotic detail on Monday in newly released footage from surveillance cameras and police forces of Thursday’s episode which killed both Mr Elena Lopez and Ms Orellana-Peralta .
The 35-minute compilation shed new light on the city’s latest high-profile police shootout, which has reignited an intense debate in Los Angeles about the role police should play in keeping communities safe.
This year, officers from the Los Angeles Police Department shot and killed 18 people, the Los Angeles Times reported, more than double the number shot by the department last year.
With the video being released on Monday, Los Angeles Police made it clear that it was one of their officer’s bullets that hit the 14-year-old in the locker room.
“As a preliminary matter, it is believed that the victim was hit by a bullet that jumped from the ground and entered the locker room wall,” the video reads. Mr. Elena Lopez did not have a weapon in his possession, police said.
Police Chief Michel R. Moore said last week he pledged to conduct a “thorough, complete and transparent investigation.” Tom Saggau, spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents police officers, said the department’s investigation would be followed by a hearing held by a five-member civil commission.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who has represented the families of several high-profile victims of police shootings, as well as the family of George Floyd after his assassination by a police officer in Minneapolis last year, announced that he had been hired by Ms. Orellana-Peralta’s family.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, in a statement, pledged to respond to the death of Ms. Orellana-Peralta “with the transparency, sensitivity and responsibility that Valentina’s family deserves”.
Following massive protests against police brutality and racism sparked by Mr Floyd’s death, Mr Garcetti and other city leaders pledged to make changes, including diverting money from budgets from the police to other services.
Last year, Mr. Garcetti supported a $ 150 million cut to a police budget of over $ 1.7 billion. Leaders in other cities, including the mayors of Oakland and San Francisco, have made similar appeals.
State officials also pledged to hold police officers accountable for wrongdoing. In July, a new state law came into force that requires the state’s justice ministry to investigate police shootings that resulted in the deaths of unarmed people and decide whether to prosecute. the officers involved. The department is investigating last week’s shooting under the law, officials said.
But many efforts to reform law enforcement practices have failed as leaders in Los Angeles and across California scrambled to address fears of an increase in violent crime and anxiety over a wave of high-profile “flash mob” thefts from high-end stores.
This year, Mr. Garcetti and city council supported a modest increase in funding for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a $ 350 million proposal to fight crime, with most of the money going to local law enforcement agencies. On the same day, San Francisco Mayor London Breed declared a state of emergency to clean up the ‘dirty streets’ of Tenderloin, breaking with liberal conventions that have shaped the city’s governance for decades.
Progressive activists in Los Angeles have called these statements a disheartening reversal.
“Nothing has changed,” said Albert Corado, whose sister was shot and killed by police during a standoff at Trader Joe’s in 2018, an incident with dark parallels to the latest North Hollywood shooting. “That’s it, ‘Turn the story around and make sure the police don’t have to be held accountable.'”
Mr Corado said he felt compelled to return home to Los Angeles from Minneapolis where he lived when his sister, Melyda Corado, assistant manager of Trader Joe’s, was killed by a stray bullet as police exchanged shots fired from a man they had been chasing.
The officers involved have not faced charges related to Ms Corado’s death.
Mr Corado is now running for Los Angeles City Council in hopes of working to dismantle the City’s Police Department, an agency he says is too fundamentally flawed to fix.
“I think we need a complete restructuring of the city government,” Corado said. “If we count what the system we currently have in place has actually done, it doesn’t address the reasons why people commit crimes. It is not in the service of anyone other than the ultra-rich.
But some of those campaigning to become Los Angeles’ next mayor have declined to draw any conclusions from the scant information available on Thursday’s shooting.
“One thing does not lead you to say that we can no longer reform the police,” said Representative Karen Bass, who is leading the race. “We must continue to push for accountability and transparency. “
Kevin de León, a member of the city council who is also considered one of the main candidates for mayor, said the task facing the next Los Angeles chief is important.
“The next mayor must be able to balance the need for police reforms and ensure that crime does not pose a threat to public safety,” he said. “I don’t think you can live in a world of absolutes.”