LAPD’s Commission Rules on the Killing of Valentina Orellana Peralta and Daniel Elena Lopez
The Los Angeles Police Commission ruled that William Dorsey Jones Jr. acted out of policy when he shot and killed 14-year-old Valentina Orellana Peralta and 24-year-old Daniel Elena Lopez.
On November 22, 2022, the Los Angeles Police Commission ruled that one of the shots LAPD officer William Dorsey Jones Jr. fired at Daniel Elena Lopez was within LAPD policy. While responding to a 911 call about Elena Lopez hitting store customers with a bike lock on December 23, 2021, Jones fired three rounds, killing Elena Lopez and Valentina Orellana Peralta. Elena Lopez was 24 and Orellana Peralta was 14. The commission ruled that the first of three shots was in policy despite LAPD Chief Michel Moore suggesting all three were out of policy. Both rulings could potentially lead to disciplinary measures for Jones. However, to date, none have been announced.
According to a report from Moore, Elena Lopez had several exchanges with women at nearby residences, which resulted in 911 calls nearly an hour before Elena Lopez entered the Burlington store. The report describes Elena Lopez as attempting to bar a woman from entering her residence, then being pepper-sprayed by the woman. He then struck her multiple times until a nearby person intervened and Elena Lopez fled into a parking garage. Meanwhile, a person involved in the previous exchange called 911. In the parking garage, Elena Lopez asked another person for milk to flush his eyes. The person told Elena Lopez to wait for them to retrieve it, but Elena Lopez forced his way into their nearby apartment. He proceeded to steal a carton of milk from the apartment refrigerator and began dumping it on his head and face. Another person seeing this also called 911 as Elena Lopez was making his way to the Burlington store.
On the day of the shooting, LAPD officers responded to several 911 calls from a Burlington store in North Hollywood. Several callers incorrectly claimed that there was an active shooter inside the store. By the time the officers arrived, Elena Lopez had attacked several people inside the store with a bicycle lock. Jones was one of the last officers to arrive during the response, and met a team that had already made their way to the second floor of the store. As an officer announced to others, “Victim down!” Jones ran to the front.
Jones told the other officers to back up and to “slow down, slow down, let me take point with the rifle.” After another officer pointed out that Elena Lopez was hitting a woman with a bicycle lock, Jones began running toward Elena Lopez. At least one officer told Jones to slow down as he continued advancing toward Elena Lopez. When Jones began announcing to the other officers that a woman was bleeding, one officer told him to “hold up, Jones.” However, Jones arrived near the bleeding woman just as Elena Lopez was turning away and placing the bike lock on the floor. At that point, Jones fired three rounds in close succession into Elena Lopez. Two of those rounds went through the wall into a dressing room behind Elena Lopez, where one struck and killed Orellana Peralta.
According to the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner, the bullet that struck Orellana Peralta traveled through the wall of the dressing room in which Orellana Peralta and her mother, Soledad Peralta, were located. According to LAPD, a .556mm from Jones’ rifle “skipped” off the floor. The coroner’s office said another bullet strike mark and perforation were found in a gray bench seat and wall just west of Elena Lopez.
The Police Commission, Use of Force Review Board, and Chief Moore Find Officers Used Bad Tactics
The Los Angeles Police Commission ruled that six of the officers present used bad tactics during the incident. As a result, they received administrative disapproval from the commission. Moore’s report states that the officers present at the scene thought an active shooter was inside the store despite an officer named Mazur broadcasting that Elena Lopez was armed with a bike lock before Jones arrived. An administrative disapproval ruling from the commission can range from no discipline other than a mention within an officer’s personnel record to full termination.
The Use of Force Review Board found that the sergeant on scene, Case, did not “appear to be willing to assume the role” of command despite being nominally in charge of the response at the Burlington store. After adjudication by the commission, Case received administrative disapproval.
Before the commission votes on findings regarding use of force, a Use of Force Review Board provides recommendations to the chief of police. The police chief then makes recommendations to the commission, whose members review and rule on those recommendations. Additionally, the Office of the Inspector General provides a report to the police commission.
The majority of a Use of Force Review Board found that officer Jones “inaccurately assessed the imminence of the threat of death or serious bodily injury Elena Lopez posed,” when he fired three shots at Elena Lopez. Police Chief Moore agreed with this assessment. The commission then ruled that Jones’ first shot was within policy, but the subsequent two shots were out of policy.
Valentina Orellana Peralta’s mother and father have filed a lawsuit naming LAPD, Burlington Stores Inc., and William Dorsey Jones Jr. as defendants. It alleges wrongful death (negligence), as well as negligent infliction of emotional distress. The suit states that LAPD was in part responsible for the death of their daughter due to their officers being “poorly supervised” and “poorly trained.” The suit also alleges that the officers on the scene did not provide adequate or timely medical treatment to Valentina Orellana Peralta or her mother and claims Orellana Peralta survived for “a period of time and, therefore, suffered extreme physical and mental pain prior to her horrible [death].”
The shooting of both Orellana Peralta and Elena Lopez has received national press coverage and sparked local protests for more than a month. Attorney Ben Crump and members of the National Action Network, including Reverend Al Sharpton, spoke at the funeral for Orellana Peralta. At the same time, various journalists jumped on stage and jockeyed for position to get photos of Orellana Peralta’s corpse in an open casket. Also during the funeral, a reporter attempted a “stand up,” introducing coverage while prayers for Orellana Peralta were being conducted. Representatives of the family asked the reporter to leave. On February 20, 2022, the families of the victims of high-profile incidents of police violence like Jacob Blake Jr., Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd attended a protest that marched through the Burlington store.
Who Were Daniel Elena Lopez and Valentina Orellana Peralta and Who Is William Dorsey Jones Jr.?
Elena Lopez was described as a person who loved his family. Elena Lopez’s sister Crystal told protesters, “That wasn’t my brother. My brother was funny, he always liked to tell jokes. He liked to play pranks.” According to his sister, Elena Lopez was struggling with addiction but was looking forward to the first birthday in three years he could spend with his family in person. “I know he was battling a lot, he was going through addiction. We don’t know … if he was hungry, if he was cold, if he felt alone … and they took his life. The police are put here to protect and serve the community but instead they have license to kill.”
At a press conference outside LAPD HQ, Orellana Peralta’s father displayed a skateboard they’d planned to give her for Christmas. Juan Pablo Orellana Larenas told reporters that he would “have to take it to the grave, so she can skate with the angels.” Orellana Peralta’s mother told reporters via an interpreter that her daughter “was full of joy and had big dreams for her future.”
Knock LA has previously profiled Jones’ early life in Louisville, Kentucky, and eventual employment as a senior lead officer as well as his active but now-deleted Twitter presence. As of September 2022, Jones was still a coach for the Valencia High School football team and was confronted by a group of protesters at a game.
Both Moore and the police commission’s findings could lead to Jones being disciplined or even fired. In that case, Jones could appeal to LAPD’s Board of Rights. The Board of Rights has been criticized by groups like the ACLU for “lacking transparency,” as well as undermining LAPD through “excessive leniency.” During the same meeting that ruled on Jones’ shooting, the commission discussed a 56-page report by the inspector general outlining concerns regarding the Board of Rights.