Photo: An altar for Valentina Orellana-Peralta at a vigil organized by People’s Struggle San Fernando Valley
By Sarah Ahmed
The family of 14-year-old Valentina Orellana-Peralta and local activists are fighting for justice for Valentina, who was killed by police in December while shopping for a Christmas dress with her mother. Officer William Dorsey Jones Jr. with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) confirmed through his lawyer last week that he killed Orellana-Peralta and Daniel Elena Lopez while pursuing Lopez, who allegedly beat customers with a bike lock in a Burlington Coat Factory in North Hollywood.
In a press conference last week organized by Valentina’s family, Soledad Peralta, Valentina’s mother, recounted the painful final moments of her daughter’s life. She was helping her daughter try on dresses for Christmas when they heard screaming and commotion outside the dressing room. Her daughter locked the door to protect them both, and they held each other and prayed. “All of a sudden we felt an explosion that pulled us both to the ground…I had no idea she had been shot. Her body went limp. I tried shaking her but her body went limp,” Soledad said. The teenage girl died in her mother’s arms.
Soledad cried for help, but she said no one came. “The police did not come to help me or my daughter, but I kept screaming. When the police finally came, they took me out of the dressing room and left my daughter laying there. I wanted them to help her, but they just left her laying there alone.”
Her parents told the crowd attending the press conference that Valentina had excelled in her high school classes, despite having moved to the United States from Chile only six months prior. She was interested in robotics and had dreamed of going to college to study engineering and technology.
Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas, Valentina’s father, had traveled from Chile intending to see his daughter for Christmas. He said he will have to deliver his daughter’s presents to her grave, instead of enjoying them with her. “It is like my whole heart has been ripped out of my body,” he said.
In body camera footage released last week, Officer Jones can be seen rushing ahead of a group of police with his rifle drawn. After finding Lopez, he recklessly opens fire within the store that is filled with holiday shoppers, killing Lopez and Orellana-Peralta. Soledad’s screams can be heard from the dressing room.
A recent profile by the New York Times paints Jones as a ‘progressive’ police officer, and describes his many attempts to sanitize the image of police, including his creation of a non-profit where he purports to mentor the same youth oppressed by LAPD. That Jones would go on to murder an innocent teenage girl only highlights his own hypocrisy and the deceit behind such pro-police public relations projects. In 2021, LAPD shot 37 people, killing 17. The previous year, LAPD shot 27 people, killing 7.
Activists with People’s Struggle San Fernando Valley (PS-SFV) held a vigil and march last Saturday at the Burlington Coat Factory in North Hollywood, vowing to fight for people’s justice for the deaths of Valentina Orellana-Peralta and Daniel Elena Lopez. A crowd of 50 gathered at the entrance of the store in front of an altar for Orellana-Peralta. The family of Lopez was also in attendance. Activists raised the demand that William Jones be fired and prosecuted.
Supporters carried signs reading, “Law enforcement keeps killing innocent people. Make it stop!” and “Justice for Valentina.”
In speeches, activists with PS-SFV called for the community to support the victims’ families: “May these families receive the justice they deserve. Don’t let them struggle alone!”
A speaker highlighted how to oppose the police’s attacks on the people: “When we stand up and fight against the police, they’re quick to respond with violence. But that’s why we fight back with violence, revolutionary violence. We become disciplined and organized to fight back stronger!
The crowd chanted to passersby, “The fight must continue, we must continue to fight! Death to US imperialism!”