By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -Body-camera video released on Monday showed the chaotic, violent moments leading to the fatal Los Angeles police shooting of an assault suspect in a clothing store, and of a 14-year-old girl caught in the line of fire while hiding inside a dressing room.
The stray bullet that pierced the fitting-room wall, killing the girl, is believed to have come from the gun of the police officer seen firing three rifle shots at the suspect, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) said in posting the video.
The girl who died in the Dec. 23 shooting has not been publicly named by police. But local media have identified her as Valentina Orellana-Peralta, who they said was shopping with her mother for a dress for her upcoming quinceanera, a 15th birthday celebration in Hispanic traditions.
The girl was born and raised in Santiago, Chile, and came to the United States six months ago with her mother to visit an older sister, the Los Angeles Times reported.
LAPD officers dispatched to the store were responding to several radio calls of an assault and possible shooting in progress, police said.
Video released on Monday by police showed the bearded, burly suspect, identified as Daniel Elena-Lopez, 24, entering the store with his bicycle and behaving erratically as he proceeds to menace and accost several shoppers.
At one point the man is seen in store-security video knocking a woman to the ground and dragging her across the floor away from her shopping cart as he repeatedly bludgeons her with a bicycle cable lock. The beating continues as several police officers are seen approaching the suspect with their guns drawn.
In a separate audio-video recording from bodycam footage of the policeman closest to the suspect, the officer can be heard shouting, "She's bleeding, she's bleeding," just before he rounds a corner and confronts Elena-Lopez while the victim tries to crawl away.
The suspect, holding a large object in his hands, is seen standing with his back to the outside of the fitting room, a few yards (meters) from the bleeding victim as the officer raises his rifle and shoots the suspect dead.
The bludgeoned woman was subsequently hospitalized for injuries to her head and arms, police said.
In a statement accompanying the videos, LAPD spokesman Captain Stacy Spell said the 14-year-old girl, who had been in the dressing area with her mother, was found in the fitting room as police searched the store for additional victims.
The officer who fired the shots has been placed on administrative while an investigation is under way, an LAPD spokesman said. No firearm was recovered from the suspect, police said.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore issued a statement promising a "thorough, complete and transparent" investigation of what he called a "devastating" tragedy. The California attorney general's office also was to open an independent investigation.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the slain girl died in the arms of her mother, who had been working on documentation to stay in the United States with her daughter permanently.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los AngelesEditing by Matthew Lewis, Richard Pullin and Michael Perry)