Records Show the Killer of Daniel Elena Lopez and Valentina Orellana Peralta Previously Used Bad Tactics
The fatal shooting of Elena Lopez and Orellana Peralta was not the first incident that led Jones' supervisor to question his actions while responding to a call.
Documents obtained by Knock LA show that the superiors of police officer William Dorsey Jones Jr. had questioned his tactics in an incident prior to the shooting of Daniel Elena Lopez and Valentina Orellana Peralta. Jones fired three shots from a rifle, killing both Elena Lopez and Orellana Peralta. Records also document a police chief’s attempts to use the legal system to block the release of body-worn camera footage of the shooting.
Elena Lopez and Orellana Peralta were both fatally shot at a Burlington store in North Hollywood on December 23, 2021. On his way to the store, Elena Lopez had attempted to enter a residence and had been pepper sprayed by an area resident in the process. While responding to a 911 call about Elena Lopez hitting store customers with a bike lock, officer William Dorsey Jones Jr. fired three rounds, killing Elena Lopez as well as bystander Valentina Orellana Peralta. Elena Lopez was 24 and Orellana Peralta was 14.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore suggested in his report to the police commission that all three shots were out of policy. Nearly a year later, LAPD’s police commission ruled that the first of the three shots was in policy. Both rulings could potentially lead to disciplinary measures for Jones. However, to date, none have been announced. The families of both Elena Lopez and Orellana Peralta are currently suing the city of Los Angeles over the shooting.
Jones’ Previous Use of Bad Tactics
In 2015, Jones was required to undergo a tactical debrief after an incident in which Norberto Villafuerte received injuries requiring hospitalization. LAPD claims they approached Villafuerte while responding to a 911 call about a man assaulting a woman. Police claim Villafuerte pushed the woman to the ground and began punching her during an argument. They also claim that Villafuerte washed the blood off the woman before threatening to take her life with a knife if she did not leave with him. No knife was ever found, and LAPD claims Villafuerte discarded it.
Villafuerte and the woman had already left the area of the altercation and were walking nearby when officers Grant Hansen and Brent Lamoureux responded. When officers ordered Villafuerte to stop, he immediately took the woman by the throat and began backing away while using her as a hostage, according to LAPD.
During the standoff, officers Karen Montoya and Marc Pooler arrived as backup. When they attempted to retrieve a beanbag shotgun, the police vehicle’s back latch was locked. Officer Pooler had to remove the key in the ignition of the vehicle to unlock the back. Once officers were able to retrieve the shotgun, they fired at Villafuerte twice, hitting him in the side. Villafuerte lost his grip, and the woman fled. The officers fired another round into Villafuerte’s leg because he began advancing towards the officers, according to LAPD.
Officer Lamoureux then pushed Villafuerte against a wall, later saying, “I just ran up to him. Grabbed him. I basically bear hugged him from the side.” Lamoureux didn’t tell the other officers he was planning to approach. Several officers began assisting in the arrest of Villafuerte, who was on the ground.
When Jones arrived, he grabbed Villafuerte’s ankles, later saying this had been to prevent Villafuerte from kicking during the arrest. When Villafuerte was handcuffed, the officers discovered injuries from the beanbag rounds and had to transfer him to a hospital. Later that year, Villafuerte pled guilty to one count of criminal threats and one count of false imprisonment for protection/shield.
At the time, North Hollywood had not yet provided its officers with bodycam devices. Jones Jr. was using his personal bodycam but did not record the use of force.
As a result of the incident, all responding officers, including Jones, had to undergo a tactical debrief, “the collective review of an incident to identify those areas where actions and decisions were effective and those areas where actions and decisions could have been improved. The intent of a Tactical Debrief is to enhance future performance.” Tactical debriefs often take place after an incident is called into question but the commission has determined it doesn’t warrant higher levels of admonishment.
Moore Complains to Controversial Cop About Criticism
A brief conversation between Michael Moore and officer Daryl Scoggins, an LAPD senior lead officer in Tarzana, shows Moore spending at least part of his time on the job upset about criticisms and choosing a questionable ear for voicing his frustration. In emails between Moore and Daryl Scoggins, Moore wrote that he regretted missing a retirement party because “with the Burlington OIS [officer-involved shooting] we are up to our ears dealing with everyone who is an expert.”
Scoggins replied that he “discussed the police point of view, training” and proudly offered that he “educated [his] community,” while asking if he can receive a challenge coin from Moore. Moore responded that he will make time to give Scoggins the coin and shake his hand.
Members of the police in the US often have coins made for offices and departments and trade them, a practice which has garnered controversy.
Scoggins has been the subject of controversy in the past. Public records transparency activist Adrian Riskin posted screenshots of comments Scoggins made as a member of a Facebook group called Crimebusters of West Hills and Woodland Hills. Several other senior lead officers with LAPD were members as well.
The group purported to be an online neighborhood watch but featured numerous instances of threats of violence toward the unhoused. Screenshots feature members suggesting violence via lynching and forcing car exhaust into sleeping areas. Another member suggested using a taser and detaining an unhoused person, to which Scoggins replied “we cant [sic] control what happens before we get there,” followed by several laughing emojis.
Eventually — after homeless advocacy groups sent a letter to both the LAPD and the California attorney general — LAPD instructed their officers to stop posting on the page. The letters prompted an internal review by LAPD. Later, the officers were allowed to continue posting on the page after LAPD claimed that violent language had stopped.
Only after activists and groups like Riskin and Ktown for All posted screenshots of the violent threats and Valley News Group and Knock LA released articles covering it did the officers’ superiors order them to end their involvement in the group. Multiple people critical of the group were identified as being intimidated and even threatened, including a journalist.
LAPD Seeks to Block City Council’s Request to Release Bodycam Footage
The city attorney’s office declaring the City Council powerless to demand bodycam footage. (City of Los Angeles)
After the Los Angeles City Council made a motion for LAPD to release bodycam footage of the fatal shooting of Elena Lopez and Orellana Peralta, LAPD sought to challenge the order on legal grounds. In addition to body-worn video footage, the council sought two reports from LAPD — one on the status of the LAPD’s and other government agencies’ investigations on the incident and one on practices to protect bystanders during use-of-force and active shooter incidents. (Elena Lopez did not have a handgun.)
A letter from the city attorney shows that after the motion, Moore asked whether he had to comply with this or similar motions. Citing the Los Angeles City Charter in the letter, the city attorney states that the “head of each department [makes] the final decision on whether and when to release records” and identified the head of the department as the police commission. It further clarifies that even the mayor’s power over LAPD is limited “because the Police Commission, not the Mayor, instructs the Chief.”
Measuring Negative Impact
One day after the shooting of Daniel Elena Lopez and Valentina Orellana Peralta, sergeant Hector Guzman began emailing statistics on the social media backlash against the incident. Guzman sent an email to Moore pointing out that LAPD was “trending at the national level,” citing posts demanding the department release the names of the officers and file criminal charges against them. He wrote that people were referring to the shooting as “murder,” asking how officers could be justified in firing at someone with a bike lock, and “associating this incident to the Trader Joe’s incident.”
The 2018 Silver Lake Shooting
In 2018, officers killed store manager Mely Corrado in Silver Lake while pursuing an armed suspect.
Guzman sent a follow-up email the next day with statistics: 510 tweets per hour were being sent that day mentioning LAPD, social media interactions had increased by 481%, and negative interactions had increased by 374%. The most popular words on the interactions were “police,” “store,” “killed,” and “burlington.”
Another series of emails between Moore and department employees includes Moore attempting to reach out to the family of Orellana Peralta. An attempt to send flowers to her funeral was reportedly rebuked.
The killings by Jones have been one of the largest sources of criticism of the LAPD’s work in several years, and are still inspiring protests more than a year later.
Contributing reporting by Cerise Castle.