US teenager fatally shot by LAPD memorialised at funeral

Civil rights leaders plead for justice for Valentina Orellana-Peralta after she was struck by stray bullet at department store

Valentina's mother Soledad Peralta (C), and her father Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas (R) react over the coffin of their daughter next to civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton during the funeral of Valentina Orellana Peralta at the City of Refuge Church in Gardena, California. EPA
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Family members, friends and civil rights leaders gathered at a church in Los Angeles, California, on Monday to remember the life of the US teenager who was accidentally shot dead by police at a clothing store on December 23.

Valentina Orellana-Peralta, 14, was hiding in a changing room where she was struck by a stray bullet when members of the Los Angeles Police Department were responding to reports of a man assaulting customers at the store in North Hollywood.

Orellana-Peralta was remembered as a happy teenager who excelled in school, had many friends and dreamt of becoming an engineer to build robots.

Speaking through a translator, Soledad Peralta, Valentina's mother, said she believes her daughter's purpose was a "mission of peace and of love".

Civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton delivers the eulogy at the funeral for 14-year-old Valentina Orellana Peralta, who was killed on December 23rd by a police officer’s stray bullet while shopping with her mother at a clothing store in North Hollywood, California. AFP

Ms Peralta said she and her daughter had gone to the department store to pick out a dress for Christmas. One of the bullets went through the man the police were after and struck the teenager in the changing room, according to police.

The teenager died in her mother's arms, Ms Peralta said.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump led mourners in chanting, "Valentina is innocent".

"The blood will not come off the hands of the LAPD so long as they attempt to justify the unjustifiable actions that caused your 14-year-old angel to spill her innocent blood," he added.

Delivering the eulogy, Civil rights leader Rev Al Sharpton said he was "puzzled" how officers responding to the scene could act "recklessly".

"There is nothing normal about shooting so recklessly that a young teenage girl looking to live the American dream that was shopping with her dear mother Soledad, possibly getting a Christmas dress, ends up being dressed for her funeral," Mr Sharpton said.

The accidental shooting reignited calls for how police tactics are employed in the US.

"We must, in the name of Valentina, give justice and change how we do policing," Mr Sharpton said.

"There was value to the life of Valentina."

LAPD Captain Stacy Spell last month said an investigation has been opened and could take a year to complete. The California Department of Justice is also investigating the incident.

Valentina, born and raised in Santiago, Chile, had only been in the US for about six months. The teenager dreamed of becoming an American citizen, her family said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Updated: January 10, 2022, 10:13 PM
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