The gray casket of 14-year-old Valentina Orellana Peralta stood between a pair of photos of the teen and funeral wreaths made up of white roses and purple flowers.
More than 100 people who came to mourn the death of the Chilean girl stood up from their chairs as they watched her parents — Soledad Peralta and Juan Pablo Orellana — walk in, arm-in-arm, amid the sound of gospel music, with civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton.
The parents wore black shirts and masks that read “Justice for Valentina” as they slowly made their way to the open casket of their daughter, who wore a pink dress and glasses.
Monday’s funeral service for Valentina came two weeks after she was killed by an LAPD police officer while shopping for clothes with her mother in North Hollywood. It also comes a day before the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners is scheduled to have its first meeting of the year and discuss the case.
The funeral service drew people from across L.A. Metta Pacheco, 46, placed her hand on the casket and wept before the ceremony began.
An activist, Pacheco said she wanted to pay her final respects to the slain girl.
“My heart breaks for the family, for their daughter,” Pacheco said. “This killing was so unnecessary, there were other ways the police could have handled this.”
Sitting across the room was Rosa Miller. She said Valentina’s shooting hit close to home. Miller said her friend, 49-year-old Vanessa Marquez, an actress, was shot and killed by South Pasadena police in 2018.
“The shooting triggered a lot of emotions, considering how young [Valentina] was and how senseless her death was,” Miller said as her eyes welled up. “People should be outraged.”
Most of those sitting inside the church were family members and mostly Black activists and residents, including members of the church. Miller was one of few Latinos present at the funeral. She said she was disappointed by the relatively small Latino presence.
“People need to wake up, especially the Latino community,” she said. “She was a Latina.”
“If a 14-year-old dying in her mother’s arms doesn’t enrage you then what will?” she added.
Others present at the funeral service included Refuge Senior Pastor Bishop Noel Jones and attorneys Ben Crump and Rahul Ravipudi, who are representing the family.
Crump has represented numerous families of people killed by police, including George Floyd, whose May 2020 slaying by a Minneapolis police officer triggered protests around the world.
As he stood on the stage with a large screen showing an image of Valentina, Crump looked over at the family and vowed he and others would seek justice for their daughter.
“Justice represents the protection of the innocent,” Crump said. “And who is more innocent than your 14-year-old angel, Valentina.”
Ravipudi took the stage next and told Valentina’s parents that as a son of immigrants, he understood how hard it was for them to sacrifice so much and work so hard to provide a better life for their daughter.
“In the short time Valentina was here, her light shined bright,” Ravipudi said. “She was excelling in school. She had friends, she had the love and support of her family. And on Dec. 23, Valentina’s life was needlessness taken away with an AR-15 by the very people who were charged with protecting her.”
Ravipudi told the parents that their daughter did not die in vain. He and others would hold those responsible for her death accountable and most importantly, make sure LAPD changed how it responded to incidents like the one that left their daughter dead, he said.
“As Gandhi said, ‘The truth never damages a cause that’s just,’” he said. “It is our job that the truth and only the truth is revealed.”
The shooting of Valentina occurred on Dec. 23, 2021. She and her mother 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. Valentina died in the arms of her mother, whose screams were captured on police body camera videos of the incident.
Jones was firing at a man, later identified as Daniel Elena-Lopez, who had attacked customers with a bicycle lock and was holding the lock at the time of the shooting, according to the video footage and police.
Police dispatchers that night received multiple, conflicting 911 calls about the assaults, some saying — incorrectly — that Elena-Lopez had a gun.
Valentina was pronounced dead at the scene, as was Elena-Lopez.
Miller, Pacheco and others said they believe police could have deescalated the incident.
At around noon a gospel choir took the stage. People rose from their seats, clapped, danced and sang, “No matter the problem, put it in God’s hands.” In front, feet from their daughter’s casket, Orellana and Peralta clapped and moved side to side to the music.
Sharpton then took the stage to deliver his eulogy. Crump said the family requested Sharpton’s presence. In recent years, he has addressed grieving families of victims who have been killed, including relatives of George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardner, Michael Brown and Ahmaud Arbery.
From the stage, tapping his index finger on the wooden podium, Sharpton said it didn’t matter that the police officer who killed Valentina was Black, or that Valentina was an immigrant in the United States.
“This is not only a tragedy, it is a travesty,” Sharpton said, while some in the crowd answered, “amen.” “There is nothing normal about shooting so recklessly that a young teenage girl looking to live the American dream, that was shopping with her dear mother, Soledad, possibly getting a Christmas dress that ends up being the dress for her funeral “
“This could have been my daughter, this could have been your daughter,” he added.
Family of the girl said Valentina brought them joy and love. They described her as a kind person who cared for the well-being of others, especially animals. Her father said she was a strong advocate of animal rights. He said his daughter wanted to become a U.S. citizen like her older sister, attend college and become an engineer.
“She had many dreams and aspirations, like any 14-year-old had,” Juan Pablo Peralta said.
He said in the short amount of time she was in the country, she had learned the English language and excelled at school, getting good grades in math and physics.
Her parents said their daughter was interested in robotics.
“She wanted to build me a robot that would help me clean,” Soledad Orellana said, speaking softly.
Both parents said it has been a painful time for them but they hope that they can secure justice for their daughter and will also help advocate for others who may need their help and support.
“I’m starting to understand,” Orellana said while standing behind the podium “that my daughter was an angel whose mission was to bring peace and love.”
There was a moment of silence at the end of the service before pallbearers carried Valentina’s casket outside to the hearse that would take her to her final resting place, amid a flurry of released white doves.