LAPD officer who killed teen bystander with stray bullet will not be charged

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(LOS ANGELES) — A Los Angeles police officer will not be charged after a stray bullet he fired killed a 14-year-old bystander during a police-involved shooting in December 2021, the California Department of Justice announced.

In a report released Wednesday, the state DOJ said it had concluded that criminal charges were “not appropriate” following a thorough investigation and cited “insufficient evidence” for criminal prosecution of the officer.

However, the state DOJ said it recommended that the LAPD “improve lines of communication in response to Immediate Action and Rapid Deployment scenarios” and “should consider updating their communication training bulletin and any related training to account for the type of situation presented during this event.”

The teen, Valentina Orellana Peralta, was struck by the stray bullet while Christmas shopping with her mother in North Hollywood on Dec. 23, 2021, after police officers responded to a report of an active shooter at a Burlington Coat Factory, according to the state DOJ. Officers found another injured victim covered in blood and the 24-year-old suspect, Daniel Elena Lopez, holding an object in his hand, the report said. An officer then fired at the suspect, fatally shooting him.

The LAPD previously released surveillance video, body camera footage and the 911 dispatch audio of the incident, which showed the suspect attacking shoppers with a bike lock inside the Burlington Coat Factory store. He did not have a gun in his possession, according to investigators.

Orellana Peralta, who was hiding in one of the dressing rooms inside the store, was struck by one of the officer’s bullets that bounced off the floor and penetrated through the wall of the room, according to police.

“This case was a particularly challenging one to process as this involved the loss of two lives,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in the press release. “Any loss of life is a tragedy, and my heart goes out especially to the family of Valentina Orellana Peralta, who tragically lost her life and whose only involvement in this incident was by being at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The California Department of Justice said the evidence in their investigation “does not show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the officer involved acted without the intent to defend himself and others from what he reasonably believed to be imminent death or serious bodily injury.”

“Therefore, there is insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution of the officer,” the state DOJ said. “As such, no further action will be taken in this case.”

The LAPD and the family of the victim did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for comment.

“We at the LAPD would like to express our most heartfelt condolences and profound regret for the loss of this innocent victim … There are no words that can describe the depth of the sorrow we feel for this tragic outcome,” an LAPD spokesperson said in a video statement after the shooting.

The young teen had come to the United States with her mother just six months before her death, her family told reporters.

“I only want justice for my daughter,” Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas, the teen’s father, told reporters at a press conference after the shooting.

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