Attorney general won't file criminal case against LA officer in 2021 shooting that killed teen

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The California Attorney General declined to file criminal charges against a Los Angeles police officer who fired a rifle at a suspect inside a clothing store in 2021, killing a 14-year-old girl in a dressing room, authorities said Wednesday.

Officer William Dorsey Jones Jr. fired three times when police responded to a Burlington clothing store in the San Fernando Valley where 24-year-old Daniel Elena Lopez, wielding a heavy bike lock, had brutally attacked two women on Dec. 23, 2021.

Elena Lopez was killed in the shooting, as was Valentina Orellana Peralta as she prayed in a dressing room with her mother.

An autopsy report found that Elena Lopez was on methamphetamine at the time of his death.

The state Department of Justice investigates all police shootings where an unarmed person is killed. Instead of criminal charges, officials recommended that the Los Angeles Police Department “should consider updating their communication training bulletin and any related training to account for the type of situation presented during this event.”

“This case was a particularly challenging one to process as this involved the loss of two lives,” Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement announcing the report. “Any loss of life is a tragedy, and my heart goes out especially to the family of Valentina Orellana Peralta, who tragically lost her life and whose only involvement in this incident was by being at the wrong place at the wrong time."

Body camera video released in 2021 showed the officers walking through the store in a formation. Wielding a rifle, Jones pushed to the front of the pack even as other officers repeatedly said to slow down.

The officers saw a woman crawling on the blood-stained floor and Elena Lopez on the other side of the aisle, according to the video footage. “Hold up! Hold up!” another officer screamed just before Jones fired three shots.

Jones told investigators that he believed someone inside the store was shooting people, that he saw a bleeding victim, mistook the bicycle lock Elena Lopez was wielding for a gun and that he thought a wall behind Elena Lopez backed up against an exterior brick wall that would block the officer’s shots. In fact, the area contained the women’s dressing rooms.

The Los Angeles Police Department declined to comment on the attorney general’s decision Wednesday, citing ongoing civil litigation. Jones' attorney did not respond to phone and email requests for comment.

The department's civilian oversight board ruled in 2022 that Jones was justified in firing once but that his two subsequent shots were out of policy. Police Chief Michel Moore, who has since retired, previously found in his own review that all three shots were unjustified.

Jones remains a full-time officer with the department, LAPD Captain Kelly Muniz said.

The teen's parents filed a lawsuit in state court in 2022 alleging wrongful death and negligence. Their attorney did not immediately respond to phone and email requests for comment Wednesday.

Her family had left Chile to get away from violence and injustice in search of a better life in the U.S. Orellana Peralta's parents remembered her as a happy teen with many friends who loved sports, adored animals and excelled in school.