'Tragic': Teen apparently killed by stray police bullet in LA Burlington dressing room identified

A male suspect was also fatally shot by police during the confrontation.

December 24, 2021, 11:15 AM

The 14-year-old girl believed to have been killed by a stray police bullet in a dressing room in Los Angeles was identified by the local coroner -- a death the city's police chief called "tragic."

Two people were fatally shot in the incident, when officers opened fire during a confrontation with a suspect at the clothing store, police said.

The 14-year-old girl was identified by the LA County Coroner on Friday as Valentina Orellana Peralta. The coroner did not provide any further information regarding cause of death, but police said Thursday that preliminarily they believed she was struck by one of the rounds fired by officers at the suspect.

"This chaotic incident resulting in the death of an innocent child is tragic and devastating for everyone involved," Police Chief Michel Moore said in a statement. "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."

The incident occurred shortly before noon Thursday at a Burlington store in North Hollywood, where police responded to reports of an assault with a deadly weapon, the Los Angeles Police Department said.

According to the LAPD, officers received multiple radio calls from the location that there was a possible shooting in progress and people were sheltering in place.

While searching for the suspect, "the officers encountered an individual who was in the process of assaulting another, and an officer-involved shooting occurred," LAPD Capt. Stacy Spell told reporters during a news briefing.

PHOTO: Police officers work near a broken glass door at the scene where two people were struck by gunfire in a shooting at the Burlington Coat Factory store in North Hollywood, Calif, Dec. 23, 2021.
Police officers work near a broken glass door at the scene where two people were struck by gunfire in a shooting at the Burlington Coat Factory store in North Hollywood, Calif, Dec. 23, 2021.
Ringo H.w. Chiu/AP

The male suspect was shot by police and declared dead at the scene, LAPD said.

Police found the teenage victim during a search for additional suspects and victims and she was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Officials said the dressing room was directly behind the suspect and out of the officer's view.

"At this time we believe it was a round coming from an officer," LAPD Assistant Chief Dominic Choi told reporters Thursday evening.

Moore said he directed the release of critical incident video, which will include the 9-1-1 calls, radio transmissions, body worn video and any CCTV and other evidence gathered at this preliminary stage, by Monday.

"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," Moore said.

Per California law, the California attorney general will be investigating and independently reviewing the officer-involved shooting.

The California Department of Justice is investigating the incident along with other law enforcement partners. Once the investigation is complete, it will be independently reviewed by the California Department of Justice’s Special Prosecutions Section within the Criminal Law Division.

The identity of the suspect has not been released.

A third person, a woman, was also injured during the alleged assault, Spell said, and was transported to the hospital. Investigators were still determining the extent and nature of her injuries.

It is also unclear if there was any connection between her and the suspect, Choi said.

Investigators were still determining what prompted the officers to open fire and what the alleged weapon was. Police have not found a gun during the search of the area at this time, Choi said.

PHOTO: Shoppers are seen at the scene where two people were struck by gunfire in a shooting at the Burlington Coat Factory store in North Hollywood, Calif., Dec. 23, 2021.
Shoppers are seen at the scene where two people were struck by gunfire in a shooting at the Burlington Coat Factory store in North Hollywood, Calif., Dec. 23, 2021.
Ringo H.w. Chiu/AP

"We're at the very preliminary stages of this investigation," Spell said. "There's still a lot of surveillance video to review, there are witnesses to interview."

Investigators will also be looking at police body-worn camera footage, which was on during the incident, Choi said. The officers involved in the shooting also still need to be interviewed, he said.

A Burlington spokesperson said the company is supporting authorities during the ongoing investigation.

"At Burlington, our hearts are heavy as a result of the tragic incident that occurred today at our North Hollywood, CA store," the spokesperson said in a statement. "Our top priority is always the safety and well-being of our customers and associates."