LOS ANGELES — A teenage girl in a dressing room was fatally shot by police who were firing on an assault suspect at a store full of last-minute holiday shoppers Thursday, authorities said.
The 14-year-old girl was found dead behind the dressing room wall, which was penetrated by gunfire, Los Angeles police officials said.
Assistant Police Chief Dominic Choi said at a news conference that a preliminary investigation indicated that the teen was fatally struck by an officer’s round.
"These are a tragic and unfortunate sequence of events," Choi said.
Officers also shot and killed the assault suspect, police said.
A third person, whom police described as the victim of an assault that triggered the first calls to officials, was hospitalized with unspecified injuries, authorities said.
It wasn't clear whether or how the suspect, the girl and the assault victim were related, Choi said.
In a written statement, police said the girl and her mother had been out of the officers' view in the changing area behind a wall when the officers encountered the suspect on the other side of the wall.
No gun tied to the initial reports of gunfire had been found, said Choi, who added that police could not search the suspect's body until the coroner had arrived.
Investigators did find a cable lock, a device used to secure bicycles, and computers on or near the suspect and think it is part of the case, police said. Choi described it as a "very heavy lock."
“This chaotic incident resulting in the death of an innocent child is tragic and devastating for everyone involved,” Police Chief Michel R. Moore said in a written 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.”
When officers open fire, it triggers internal inquiries, as well as an investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement Thursday that a state investigation team was also sent to the scene. A new California law requires the state Department of Justice to investigate fatal shootings of unarmed civilians by law enforcement.
A Burlington Stores spokesperson said in a statement: "At Burlington, our hearts are heavy as a result of the tragic incident that occurred today at our North Hollywood, CA store. Our top priority is always the safety and well-being of our customers and associates. This is an ongoing investigation, and we are supporting authorities."