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A memorial outside the Burlington store in North Hollywood on Monday, Jan 10, 2022, for 14-year-old Valentina Orellana Peralta.  (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily ɫ̳/SCNG)
A memorial outside the Burlington store in North Hollywood on Monday, Jan 10, 2022, for 14-year-old Valentina Orellana Peralta. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily ɫ̳/SCNG)

No criminal charges will be filed against the Los Angeles Police Department officer who fired a rifle inside a North Hollywood Burlington store in 2021, who was cowering with her mother out of sight in a dressing room.

A California Department of Justice report released Wednesday, April 17 found no evidence that Officer William Dorsey Jones, Jr. “acted without the intent to defend himself and others from what he reasonably believed to be imminent death or serious bodily injury” when he fired a service rifle at 24-year-old Daniel Elena Lopez, who was standing at the other end of an aisle of merchandise from him.

Lopez had just been swinging a bike lock at a woman, bloodying her head and sending her scrambling to get away from him when Jones turned the corner into the aisle.

Jones fired three shots at Lopez, hitting him once, as other officers behind Jones can be heard telling him to slow down and “hold up.” Video of the incident shows Jones did not order Lopez to surrender before firing.

One of those shots, according to a bullet-trajectory analysis in the DOJ report, hit the floor behind Lopez and skipped upwards, piercing the outer wall of the dressing room where 14-year-old Valentina Orellana Peralta was hiding. The bullet struck Orellana Peralta in the chest and killed her.

While the DOJ faulted the tactics and bad communication of the LAPD officers who responded to the store that day, the agency said there was no evidence Jones’ actions were criminal.

“A prosecuting agency would not be able to establish that Officer Jones was unreasonable in a determination that lethal force was necessary to protect himself or others, or that he did not actually hold this view,” the DOJ said. “Accordingly, the examined evidence does not support the contention that the shooting of Mr. Lopez violated any criminal law.”

LAPD released video of the shooting, piecing together security camera footage inside the store as well as body-worn camera footage from several of the officers who responded to the store on Dec. 23, 2021. The video showed Jones arriving last among a group of officers forming a plan to search the store for Lopez.

According to the DOJ’s 67-page report on the shooting, all of the officers who arrived at the store believed there was possibly an active shooter on the loose inside.

The report showed several radio calls from dispatchers were heard by the responding officers that contained conflicting information — dispatchers initially reported Lopez was hitting displays and people inside the store with the lock. But within minutes, the calls changed rapidly, reporting that there was shooting going on inside the store.

One officer who arrived outside the store spoke to an employee, who told him Lopez was only armed with the bike lock. Regardless, the officers approached the store in a “diamond formation” — a tactic officers use while dealing with an active shooter situation.

Still, the first team of officers to arrive made a plan to approach the second level of the store armed with both a shotgun and a 40-millimeter foam projectile launcher.

The witness “informed Officer Mazur that a suspect, wearing no pants, was armed with a bicycle lock, and there was no mention of a firearm,” the DOJ wrote in their report. “Officer Jones was not present during that conversation.”

The video released by LAPD shows Jones surging to the front of the team of officers armed with the rifle, before he finds Lopez and shoots him.

Both former Chief Michel Moore and the Police Commission found Jones failed to follow department policy when he fired at Lopez — while his first shot was in policy, the subsequent two shots he fired were out of policy, the commission ruled.

An attorney for Jones did not return a request for comment on Wednesday.

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