Fourteen-year-old Valentina Orellana-Peralta was laid to rest on Monday, Jan. 10, after being accidentally shot by police during part of a tragic retail store shoot-out.
Christopher Weber of The Associated Press reported that Orellana-Peralta “was killed when a Los Angeles police officer fired at a suspect at a clothing store and the bullet pierced a wall.” The teen was hiding on the other side of the dressing room wall and died instantly on the scene.
“She was remembered as a happy teen with many friends who loved sports, adored animals and excelled in school,” Weber said.
During the memorial ceremony, Valentina’s father, Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas, said his family had been crushed by their daughter’s violent and unexpected death.
“As parents, we ask ourselves, is it just for our daughter to die in this way?” he said. “It’s an answer we will never have.”
According to Weber, “Orellana-Peralta died in the arms of her mother, Soledad Peralta, on Dec. 23 at a Burlington store in the San Fernando Valley’s North Hollywood neighborhood. Police officers shot and killed a suspect who was behaving erratically and brutally attacked two women.”
Orellana-Peralta’s death has drawn a number of high-profile figures in the world of police reform and social justice. Her family is being represented by attorney Benjamin Crump, the lawyer who also represented Breonna Taylor’s family after her murder by police.
During the memorial, Crump said, “We pray for peace and justice for this innocent blood spilled.” He then led mourners to chant, “Valentina is innocent!” during the service.
Following Crump’s words of remembrance, civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton delivered Valentina’s eulogy.
During his speech, Sharpton reflected on the police beating of Rodney King, blatantly asking the LAPD, “How long will it take for you to get it right?” He went on to call Valentina’s untimely death “not only a tragedy but a travesty.”
“This could’ve been my daughter,” Sharpton said. “This could’ve been your daughter.”
Orellana-Peralta’s family was new to the U.S., arriving from Chile just six months ago in an effort to flee violence and injustice and, according to her parents, build a better life in the U.S.
“Orellana-Peralta looked forward to becoming an American citizen and hoped to attend a Los Angeles Lakers game with her father,” Weber reported. “Her father [also] said the teen loved skateboarding and had dreams of becoming an engineer to build robots. He said she earned good grades, even though English was her second language.”
In a statement following her death, Police Capt. Stacy Spell said, “We at the LAPD would like to express our most heartfelt condolences and profound regret for the loss of this innocent victim, Valentina Orellana-Peralta. There are no words that can describe the depth of the sorrow we feel at this tragic outcome.”
In addition to an internal investigation by the LAPD, the California Department of Justice is also looking into the events of the day that took Orellana-Peralta’s life. Both investigations are currently ongoing.
Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.