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Family bid farewell to teen accidentally shot by US police

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Black civil rights leader Al Sharpton criticised police willingness to shoot, saying there was 'nothing normal' about it./AFP
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Jan 11, 2022 - 06:23 AM

LOS ANGELES — Friends and family of the teenager accidentally shot dead in a department store by US police gathered to say an emotional farewell on Monday.

Valentina Orellana Peralta died when she was hit by a stray bullet as officers in Los Angeles opened fire at a man rampaging around the store with a bike lock.

The 14-year-old, who had been shopping for Christmas clothes, died in her mother’s arms as the two hid in a changing room.

Juan Pablo Orellana, the father of the young Chilean, told reporters he was “devastated” by her death.

He and Soledad Peralta, Valentina’s mother, were greeted at the City of Refuge church by Al Sharpton, a leading figure in the Black civil rights movement in the United States.

“There is nothing normal about shooting so recklessly that a young teenage girl looking to live the American dream, (who) went with her mother Soledad to a department store… ends up being dressed for her funeral,” Sharpton told the congregation.

Los Angeles police have come under criticism for the way officers stormed the department store with guns drawn.

The man they were looking for did not have a firearm, and was moving away from them and from a woman he had attacked, when one officer began shooting, bodycam footage showed.

“I wonder if this would be a department store in an upscale area, would you have been shooting like that?” Sharpton asked.

The suspect, 24-year-old Daniel Elena Lopez, died at the scene.

Benjamin Crump, a prominent civil rights lawyer who represented George Floyd’s family, said justice needed to be served.

“Valentina’s blood will not leave the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department as long as they continue to justify the unjustifiable actions that caused a 14-year-old angel to shed her innocent blood,” he said.

The teenager’s family all wore black sweaters with the young girl’s image and the Spanish caption “Justicia para Valentina” (Justice for Valentina).

Those gathered observed a minute’s silence at the ceremony, embracing around Valentina’s coffin.

Orellana kissed his dead daughter and the casket was sealed.

Valentina, who arrived in the United States last year, was set to be buried later at a private ceremony.

LAPD Officer William Jones, who fired the bullet that killed Valentina, has been placed on administrative leave.

Union officials have said Jones had recently completed a course on handling “active shooter” situations, and was following his training.

At least one 911 caller wrongly told operators that Lopez was armed.

The killing sparked renewed criticism of police willingness to resort to deadly force.

There is no official national record of fatal shootings by US police officers, and reporting of incidents by departments is voluntary.

A tally by the Washington Post shows almost 900 people were shot and killed by police in 2021.

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