A 14-year-old girl needlessly died as "collateral damage" in a police shooting last week and drew her last breath in the arms of her grieving mother, the family and their lawyers said Tuesday.
Heartbroken loved ones of Valentina Orellana-Peralta, who was killed Thursday in a dressing room at a Burlington store in the North Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles, said they demanded police accountability for the fatal shooting — but stopped short of exact demands.
"The family thinks things could have been done differently to where Valentina wouldn't be collateral damage," their attorney, Benjamin Crump, told reporters in the shadows of police headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.
Crump and the girl's parents met with reporters just 15 miles southeast of the Burlington store where officers confronted an assault suspect.
A bullet fired at the man, identified by the Los Angeles County medical examiner-coroner as Daniel Elena Lopez, 24, hit the girl while she and her mother were in a dressing room.
Both Lopez and Valentina died from a “gunshot wound to the chest,” according to an investigator with the office.
When Valentina and her mother heard the disturbance outside, Valentina locked the dressing room door, the family said.
“We sat down and hugged and started praying. When something impacted my daughter Valentina, it threw us on the floor, and she died in my arms, and there was nothing I could do,” Valentina’s mother, Soledad Peralta, said in Spanish, according to her lawyer Erika Contreras.
“To see a son or daughter die in your arms is one of the greatest pains and the most profound pain that any human being can imagine,” she said.
Peralta spoke with a handwritten placard dangling from her neck reading, “Justicia para nuestra hija Valentina,” Spanish for “Justice for our daughter Valentina.”
The girl, who came to the U.S. from Chile with her mother, had dreams big and small — to become a robot-designing engineer and someday attend a Lakers game, her parents said.
The family had just ordered a skateboard for her, and it arrived on Friday, Christmas Eve, a day after she died.
The girl's father, Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas, held up the skateboard for reporters and lamented that she never had the chance to show off her moves.
"It is like my whole heart has been ripped out of my body. The pain of opening Christmas presents that have been delivered for Christmas Day cannot be articulated," he said, according to a translation by Crump.
"My daughter was special," he said. "She had dreams, and tragically those dreams have been overshadowed by this nightmare that prevents me from sleeping at night."
A police spokeswoman declined to comment on the family's statements Tuesday.
CORRECTION (Dec. 28, 2021, 6:25 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misspelled the first name of Valentina Orellana-Peralta’s mother. She is Soledad Peralta, not Soldead.