The death of a 14-year-old girl struck by a stray police bullet at a Burlington Coat Factory has been ruled a homicide.
The Los Angeles County medical examiner’s office released preliminary autopsy results Monday confirming that Valentina Orellana-Peralta died of a gunshot wound to the chest at the North Hollywood store Dec. 23.
Cops have said the teen was trying on dresses for a quinceañera in one of the store’s changing rooms when an unidentified officer fired at a nearby assault suspect attacking a woman.
LAPD officials said they plan to release police body-cam footage and 911 calls from the shooting later Monday.
Officials identified the assault suspect as Daniel Elena Lopez, 24, who also died of a gunshot wound to the chest.
Both Orellana-Peralta and Lopez were pronounced dead at the scene.
“Unbeknownst to the officers, a 14-year-old girl was in a changing room behind a wall, that was directly behind the suspect and out of the officers’ view,” LAPD officials said in a release.
“She was in the changing area with her mother when the officers encountered the suspect and the officer involved shooting occurred. During a search for additional suspects and victims, officers found the girl and discovered she had been struck by gunfire.”
Responding officers opened fire when they saw Lopez attacking a woman, and one of the bullets penetrated the dressing room wall where Orellana-Peralta was changing, LAPD Assistant Chief Dominic Choi said at a press conference last week.
The California Attorney General’s Office is conducting an independent review of the case.
Once its report is completed, the investigation will be turned over to the California Department of Justice’s Special Prosecution Section within the Criminal Law Division, which conducts independent reviews.
Los Angeles Police Department officials said the agency’s family liaison is working with the mayor’s crisis-response team and Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez to assist the teen’s family.
“This chaotic incident resulting in the death of an innocent child is tragic and devastating for everyone involved,” LAPD Police Chief Michel Moore said.
“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.
“My commitment is to conduct a thorough, complete and transparent investigation into the circumstances that led up to this tragedy and provide the family and public with as much information as possible.”