(NEW YORK) — Protesters are calling for the firing or arrest of LAPD Officer William Jones Jr. in the fatal shooting of Valentina Orellana Peralta, a 14-year-old girl who was in a clothing store dressing room when she was killed.
“We cannot allow for these things to go unresolved,” said Chloë Cheyenne, an activist and the CEO of social justice media app COMMUNITYx, who is running the Justice for Valentina website and petition. “Police officers must be held accountable for their bullet.”
Valentina, a Chilean immigrant, was killed on Dec. 23 while shopping with her mother at a Burlington clothing store in North Hollywood, California. She was in a dressing room when Jones opened fire on an assault with a deadly weapon suspect in the store, according to officials.
The wall of the dressing room Peralta was in was behind the suspect when he was shot, police said, adding that Peralta was not in view of officers when the shooting occurred.
Demonstrators, some of whom have experienced police violence within their own families, are demanding justice for Peralta and supporting her family. A petition to get body camera footage and surveillance footage from the incident and to bring charges against Jones has received thousands of signatures.
The LAPD has published 911 calls, radio transmissions, body camera footage and surveillance video from the incident. The department’s policy is to release video of incidents like police shootings within 45 days, but the footage was published just five days after the incident.
“We are really critical of this excess of police culture that makes it OK for officers to shoot and kill Black and brown people and for officers to freely open fire in Black and brown communities in a way that does not happen in white suburban communities?” Cheyenne said, noting that Los Angeles is a predominantly Latino city.
Though some demonstrators are calling for Jones’ arrest, others say that justice should also come by way of police reform and a rethinking of what policing in America should look like.
“I think that to not have a conversation about policing and its actual function in our society, I think would be wrongheaded,” said Albert Corado from the local activist organization, the People’s City Council. “We need to talk about why police are so emboldened to do what they do.”
“They were given military grade equipment, they were given bigger budgets, more oversight and more wiggle room to do whatever they want,” Corado said of police in recent years — before the recent push for police reform.
According to the Los Angeles Times, police in Los Angeles County have killed about 951 people since 2000 — about four people each month, over the last 22 years.
Corado said his sister was killed by police in an incident that mirrors Peralta’s, and that police violence is all too common in the city.
“I went to the first press conference that [Peralta’s family] did and it was a little triggering,” Corado said. “I’m hoping that people now take the outrage they’re feeling and actually transform this.”
In a Dec. 27 statement on the incident, LAPD Chief Michel R. Moore said, “This chaotic incident resulting in the death of an innocent child is tragic and devastating for everyone involved. 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.”
He added, “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.”
Per California law, the California attorney general will be investigating and independently reviewing the officer-involved shooting.
Jones is on paid administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.
The LAPD union, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said Jones followed procedure, though Tom Saggau, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said Peralta’s death was an “absolute, tragic accident.”
“The officer had just completed the mass casualty active shooter training that the LAPD puts on, just a couple of weeks prior to the incident,” said Saggau, who doesn’t believe Jones should be arrested. “He was very much in tune with how and what he was to do, responding to what he believed to be an active shooter.”
Saggau also said that Jones talked openly about his experiences with racism and tackled issues in policing. He started a non-profit called Officers for Change, which donated school supplies from fellow officers.
Jones’ lawyer, Leslie Wilcox, did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
The suspect, Daniel Elena Lopez, did not have a gun at the scene, according to officials. He had a metal bike lock that was allegedly used to assault a woman and break glass. According to audio released by the LAPD, several 911 callers told dispatchers that they suspected Lopez had a gun.
The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner declared Peralta’s manner of death a homicide, with the cause of death being a gunshot wound to the chest. The suspect, Lopez, was also fatally shot.
“To see a son or daughter die in your arms is one of … the greatest pains and most profound pains that any human being can imagine,” Peralta’s mother, Soledad Peralta, said. “Now, our sweet angel has left us forever. Please give us strength, Valentina.”
The Peralta family is being represented by civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who has also represented the families of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and more.
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