Mourners gathered at a funeral to remember Valentina Orellana Peralta, who was shot by Los Angeles police in December as they pursued a man in a department store. The 14-year-old died inside a dressing room in her mother’s arms.
“If this was a department store in an upscale area, would you have been shooting like that? I wonder if it had been in another area, another income level, another race, would people be looking at this as a tragedy [rather] than a travesty?” civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton said in a eulogy at Orellana Peralta’s funeral Monday, at the City of Refuge church in Gardena, south of Los Angeles.
“There is nothing normal about shooting so recklessly that a young teenage girl looking to live the American Dream, that was shopping with her dear mother Soledad, possibly getting a Christmas dress, ends up dressed for her funeral,” Sharpton said, after noting that he and others have been calling for reform of the LAPD for decades, since the 1991 police beating of Rodney King.
“We must make new laws, we must make new training,” urged Sharpton, who has delivered eulogies at the funerals of George Floyd, Stephon Clark and others killed by police. “They must be held accountable ... Her life matters to us.”
On Dec. 23, police shot and killed 24-year-old Daniel Elena Lopez, who was shown on video to have attacked people with a bike lock at a Burlington store in North Hollywood. As cops were shooting him, a stray bullet pierced a dressing room wall, per police, killing Orellana Peralta, who was hiding inside with her mother.
At a press conference days after her death, Orellana Peralta’s family said the teen loved skateboarding and wanted to become an engineer one day. The teen had moved to the U.S. only six months before her death, with her family leaving Chile in search of a better life in the U.S.
“The blood of Valentina will not come off the hands of the Los Angeles police department as long as they attempt to justify the unjustifiable actions that caused your 14-year-old angel to spill her innocent blood,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump said at Monday’s funeral, addressing Orellana Peralta’s parents, Soledad Peralta and Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas. “Valentina is innocent.”
The LAPD and the California Department of Justice are investigating the shooting. LAPD officer William Jones, who shot and killed Elena Lopez and Orellana Peralta, was placed on administrative leave.
Protesters calling for justice for Orellana Peralta have demanded the officer be fired and charged.
At Monday’s funeral, family attorney Rahul Ravipudi condemned the young girl’s life being “needlessly taken away ... by the very people who were charged with protecting her.”
“It will not be in vain,” said the lawyer, who is a child of immigrants from India. “We will expose that truth, hold accountable those responsible for her death and implement changes that will allow all Americans, all immigrants and everyone to feel that same American dream, the one where we’re raising children in a place that we feel safe and protected. That is the cause of Valentina.”