Tyrone Napper never knew Valentina Orellana Peralta or her family. But when he heard about how the 14-year-old was killed by a Los Angeles police officer while shopping with her mother, he felt compelled to take a 30-minute bus ride Saturday morning to the girl’s public viewing at Angelus Funeral Home in Crenshaw.
“I just wanted to show my respect for the family,” the 72-year-old said. “It’s very painful to see someone lose their life at such a young age.”
Napper echoed the sentiment of many who came to view Valentina, who was fatally shot just days before Christmas.
Valentina and her mother, Soledad Peralta, had been shopping for dresses on Dec. 23 and were in the changing room of a Burlington store when one of three rounds fired by Officer William Dorsey Jones Jr. penetrated the wall and struck the girl, who died in her mother’s arms.
Jones was firing at a man, later identified as Daniel Elena-Lopez, who had assaulted customers with a bicycle lock and was holding the lock at the time of the shooting, according to police and body camera footage of the incident.
Valentina’s funeral will be Monday at City of Refuge Church in Gardena.
At the viewing, Valentina was dressed in a pink plaid skirt, white tights and hot pink checkered vans.
“My daughter dresses just how she dresses,” Felicia Banks-Ali thought when she saw Valentina. Banks-Ali and her daughter, Jurnee, didn’t know Valentina, but said her death struck a chord.
“I’m here as a mother of a 14-year-old,” Banks-Ali said. “My daughter Jurnee and I try on clothes in the dressing room all the time. So, to imagine being in a dressing room with your daughter and something like that occurs? That’s pretty devastating.”
Anthony Curtis, funeral director at Angelus Funeral Home, said Valentina’s death has hit many hard because it makes them think of their own children.
“She’s too young to be in there for the reason she’s in there,” he said. “That baby is all of our babies.”
In recordings released by the LAPD, including surveillance footage, 911 tapes and video from body cameras worn by officers, Jones can be seen pulling a rifle out of the back of his police vehicle and rushing into the Burlington store along with other officers.
One caller to 911 who identified herself as an employee had told a dispatcher that a man, later identified as Elena-Lopez, was assaulting customers with a bike lock in the store. Another caller told another dispatcher, incorrectly, that the man had a gun. He did not have a firearm.
In the released video footage, Jones reached the top of an escalator on the store’s second floor, where Elena-Lopez had just beaten a woman with the bike lock. With rifle drawn, the officer then moved quickly to the front of a group of other officers armed with handguns and projectile weapons.
When Jones spotted the woman collapsed on the floor, he shouted, “She’s bleeding!” and rushed forward again as other officers told him to slow down.
Within seconds, Jones had reached the woman, turned to his right and fired three rounds at Elena-Lopez, who was moving away from Jones and the woman at the opposite end of a shopping aisle.
Jones killed Elena-Lopez in the shooting, but also Valentina, who was hiding in a nearby dressing room with her mother when one of Jones’ rounds penetrated the dressing room wall and struck her.
“She died in my arms. I couldn’t do anything,” her mother, Soledad Peralta, said during a news conference soon after the killing. “Our sweet angel is gone forever.”
Saturday afternoon, family members chose not to speak to media. At least three dozen family members entered the funeral home after the public viewing. At 2 pm., the viewing became private for Valentina’s family.
Valentina arrived in the U.S. from Chile about six months ago and was an exceptional student. On their way to the Burlington store on the day she died, Valentina told her mother about her desire to continue to make good grades and eventually become an engineer and a U.S. citizen.
Police officials have said the shooting is under thorough investigation. The California Department of Justice is also investigating the shooting.