LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Police Department released an array of video footage and audio recordings Monday that captured the chaotic moments before and after an officer opened fire with a long rifle inside a Burlington store two days before Christmas, killing a 14-year-old girl and an assault suspect.
The videos and audio, showing everything from the suspect’s erratic movements in the store and his attacks on multiple customers to the moments an officer opened fire with a long rifle, show police didn’t give any commands to the suspect, who was shot while standing over the bloodied body of an assault victim.
The lone officer who opened fire, however, was told to “slow down” more than a dozen times by other responding officers before shots were fired. He has been placed on administrative leave, the department confirmed to USA TODAY, and not yet publicly identified.
The jarring set of evidence, including 911 calls, police radio audio, body camera footage from responding officers and surveillance footage from inside the store, shows officers received conflicting information over whether the suspect was armed with a gun but call into question police tactics and the rationale of an officer opening fire inside a department store.
None of the footage or audio released Monday show the girl, Valentina Orellana-Peralta, 14, who was shot and killed by a stray bullet. The LAPD said Monday it believed the bullet ricocheted off the ground and pierced the dressing room wall, which was directly behind where the suspect was shot. The girl was in a dressing room with her mother.
The Los Angeles County medical examiner-coroner ruled the girl’s death a homicide by a gunshot wound to the chest. Mourners left flowers and a votive candle outside the store in a makeshift memorial on Christmas.
Moments after the suspect was shot by the officer, a woman’s muffled screams and cries can be heard in the video footage. Officers go into the dressing room area after hearing the sounds before the videos released by police end.
The coroner identified the male suspect as Daniel Elena Lopez, 24. He died of a gunshot wound.
The male suspect and the girl were the 16th and 17th people shot and killed by Los Angeles police officers in 2021, a significant increase in fatal police shootings over the past two years in the country’s second-largest city. Police fatally shot an 18th person – a man with a knife – late Sunday.
The shooting happened Thursday morning on the second floor of a Burlington store in North Hollywood. The 911 calls began around 11 a.m. about a man assaulting people with a bike lock. Other calls indicated the man might be armed with a gun and that gunshots could be heard inside the store, reports that were later deemed unfounded.
Surveillance footage showed the man entering the store around 11 a.m. with a bicycle and bike lock draped on his shoulders. He went up an escalator to the second floor of the store and acted erratically, waving the metal bike lock in the air, trying on clothing and leaving his bicycle in the path of those attempting to use the escalator.
Soon, his movements grew violent. He raised his bicycle over his head and threatened to throw it over a second-floor railing, used the bike lock to smash a computer screen and a glass railing and then chased several people, surveillance footage shows. The video shows he tried to grab one woman’s bag as he followed her down the escalator. She resisted and ran out of the store. He took off his pants and waited at the bottom of the escalator for a second woman, who also managed to break free when he attempted to attack her. She similarly ran from the store, footage shows.
The video shows the suspect went back upstairs and approached a third woman from behind. He hit her over the head with the bike lock as she pushed a cart, knocking her into dresses and other women’s clothing on racks. He repeatedly hit her with the metal lock before she tried to run and fell to the ground, the footage shows.
As she tried to crawl, the suspect is seen in the video dragging her bloodied body into a home décor aisle near the store’s dressing rooms. He repeatedly hit her with the lock as she tried to use her hands to shield her face and head, the video shows.
Police bodycam footage showed officers responding and yelling “LAPD” as they entered the store. Officers were armed with both pistols and less-lethal weapons, they can be heard discussing in the videos. As officers began to make their way through the second floor, an officer with a long rifle approached and said, “Let me take point with the rifle.”
The officer followed a trail of blood and led others to where the suspect was assaulting the woman. He could be heard yelling, “She’s bleeding” as he ran toward the area. Other officers can be heard yelling for the officer to “slow down!” at least a dozen times and “hold up” before three gunshots can be heard.
The officer who opened fire didn’t yell any commands to the suspect as he approached, bodycam footage from him and other responding officers show. The suspect could be seen holding the bicycle lock and a piece of artwork on a canvass as the officer opened fire. After the shots, the suspect dropped to the ground, pieces of art and home décor strewn nearby.
Dominic Choi, assistant chief for the department, said investigators were trying to determine whether the assaults were random or targeted. He said investigators do not believe the teenager was related to the person who was attacked and taken to a hospital with injuries to her head, face and arms.
Mayor Eric Garcetti called the shooting an “unthinkable tragedy.”
“There is absolutely nothing more devastating than what Valentina Orellana-Peralta’s family is enduring, and there are no words that will take away their pain right now,” Garcetti said in a statement.
On Friday, Police Chief Michel Moore promised a “thorough, complete and transparent investigation” into the shooting. He said he directed the release of 911 calls, radio transmissions, bodycam video, any closed-circuit TV footage and other evidence by Monday.
In 2021, Los Angeles police have shot at least 38 people, according to the Los Angeles Times. Officers shot 27 people and killed seven in 2020. In 2019, officers shot 26 people, killing 12. Before the uptick, police shootings reached a 30-year low in 2019 after declining from a high of more than 100 per year in the 1990s.
Albert Corado, who is running for city council, told USA TODAY the shooting reminded him of his sister’s killing in 2018. That July, a man shot his grandmother and girlfriend before leading police on a chase that ended when the suspect crashed his car outside a Trader Joe’s store. The ensuing gunfight killed Melyda Corado, 27, the assistant store manager.
“For what happened to my sister in 2018 to now happen basically in the same way shows they (LAPD) have no desire to change, to have accountability or to look out for the public,” Corado said Monday morning.
When he heard of the Burlington shooting, Corado said, he was “transported back” to the day his sister was killed. Corado said he grew up in North Hollywood and used to go to that shopping center with his sister when they were kids.
“My hope for this is that the conversation that should have happened after Mely was killed happens now,” Corado said.
The California Department of Justice is investigating the incident and will turn over its findings to the special prosecutions section for independent review, according to California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
Contributing: N’dea Yancey-Bragg and Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAY; The Associated Press