A girl who was accidentally shot dead by police inside an LA clothing store changing room had been trying on dresses for a quinceañera – a rite-of-passage 15th birthday celebration.
The 14-year-old was struck by cops Thursday as they fired at a male suspect who had assaulted a woman earlier, police said. The man was killed and the woman suffered moderate to serious injuries.
The shots were fired about 11:45 a.m. at a Burlington store — part of a chain formerly known as Burlington Coat Factory — in North Hollywood, Los Angeles police Capt. Stacy Spell told reporters.
One of the bullets went through a dressing room wall and struck the unidentified girl, according to LAPD Assistant Chief Dominic Choi. Her mother was in the room with her at the time of the shooting.
“You can’t see into the dressing rooms and it just looks like a straight wall of drywall,” Choi said at a news conference, adding that police do not yet know whether she was in the dressing room before the shooting erupted or ran inside to hide.
An LAPD source told the LA Times that the teen was at the store to try on dresses for a quinceañera, a popular Latin American celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday that marks the transition from childhood to young womanhood.
“It’s just absolutely heartbreaking, and I cannot find words to try to comfort a mother and a family, but I will ensure them and the public and our people that we will conduct a complete and thorough investigation,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore told the newspaper late Thursday.
The LAPD said on Twitter: “One of the officer’s rounds penetrated a wall that was behind the suspect, beyond that wall was a dressing room. “Officers search the dressing room and found a 14-year-old female victim who was struck by gunfire.”
Moore said it did not appear that the cop who fired the deadly round “would have known that there was anyone behind there or that he was looking at anyone other than the suspect and a wall.”
But he added that the tragic shooting will be thoroughly investigated.
“There’s not a police officer in America who would ever want this type of circumstance to occur,” Moore said.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta said the state Department of Justice will probe the shooting under rules set by Assembly Bill 1506, which took effect July 1 and requires his office to independently investigate all fatal police shootings of unarmed civilians, the LA Times reported.
Police said they found a heavy metal cable lock near the suspect whom officers were confronting, but that no gun was recovered.
The incident recalled a July 21, 2018, confrontation in which LAPD cops accidentally shot and killed a woman at a Trader Joe’s market.
Officers got into a gunfight with a man who authorities said shot his grandmother and girlfriend before leading police on a chase that ended when he crashed his car outside the store.
A police bullet killed Melyda Corado, 27, the assistant store manager, as she ran toward the store’s entrance. The suspect, Gene Evin Atkins, took employees and shoppers hostage for three hours before surrendering.
Atkins has pleaded not guilty to the killing and prosecutors found that two officers acted lawfully when they returned his gunfire.
With Post wires