Legal Nigeria

Father of teen shot by US police demands jail terms


Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas (R), father of 14-year old Valentina Orellana-Peralta, who was killed by a stray police bullet last week while shopping at a clothing store for a dress, speaks at a press conference outside Los Angeles Police Department headquarters in Los Angeles, California, December 28, 2021. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP)

The father of teenager accidentally shot dead by US police in a department store, demanded jail time Tuesday for the officers involved in her killing.

The death of 14-year-old Valentina Orellana-Peralta is the latest at the hands of law enforcement in a country where guns abound and police readily resort to deadly force.

“The only thing I want is justice for my daughter,” Juan Pablo Orellana told reporters.

“I will not rest until the last day, until all these criminals are in jail.”

Valentina, a Chilean immigrant, was hiding in a changing room last Thursday as Los Angeles police rushed into the Burlington department store to confront a man swinging a bike lock at customers.

Video footage of the chaotic incident shows several officers prowling the aisles with weapons drawn, one of whom opens fire almost as soon as he sees the attacker.

One of the bullets he fired went through a wall and killed the schoolgirl, who had been trying on clothes with her mother for Christmas.

“We were together in a fitting room shopping for Christmas clothes,” a tearful Soledad Peralta said.

“We heard screams, we sat hugging each other praying, when something hit Valentina and threw us to the floor.

“She died in my arms. I couldn’t do anything, I couldn’t do anything.

“To see a daughter die in your arms is one of the greatest and deepest pains one can imagine. She meant the world to me,” she said.

The parents were accompanied by lawyers, including Benjamin Crump, a prominent Black attorney specializing in wrongful death suits, whose clients have included the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

Los Angeles Police Chief Michael Moore has pledged a “complete and transparent investigation” into Valentina’s death.

Civil rights groups have been quick to criticize the ready use of weapons in a department store, where officers could not have known the full circumstances, including whether bystanders were present.

Emergency calls included reports that the suspect had a gun, but no firearm was subsequently found.

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

A tally by the Washington Post shows 900 people have been shot and killed by police in the last year.

Police frequently defend their use of deadly force by pointing out that in a country with an abundance of guns, they routinely encounter life-threatening situations.

In the wake of a number of mass casualty shootings, police training has morphed from stressing the need to negotiate and avoid violence to moving quickly and decisively to neutralize an attacker.

Valentina’s father on Tuesday said the actions of police officers last week were “negligent”.

“They destroyed us as a family,” he said, showing the skateboard he had bought his daughter for Christmas.

“All she wanted was to be an American citizen. But death is what my daughter came here to find.”