A Los Angeles police officer who fatally shot a 14-year-old girl at a Burlington Coat Factory store was following active-shooter protocols, his union said Monday.
In the horrifying incident Dec. 23, Officer William Jones opened fire on an assault suspect at the store, killing him. But during a search for additional suspects, police found teen Valentina Orellana-Peralta was also hit by a bullet that penetrated a dressing room wall. She died in her mother’s arms.
Initial 911 calls reported a gun at the store, Los Angeles Police Protective League spokesman Tom Saggau told NBC News. And Officer William Jones, 42, had undergone mass casualty active shooter training about two weeks before the incident, Saggau said.
“The conflicting 911 calls, some said he’s got a bike lock, he’s got a chain ... but the other information that made its way was that he’s got a gun and he’s shooting,” Saggau told NBC News.
“You can have conflicting witnesses calling 911, and the officers have to prepare for the worst-case scenario. The worst-case scenario was gun, shooting in a store, that’s an active shooter protocol immediately.”
Retired LAPD Capt. Greg Meyer, a nationally recognized expert in the use of force, said the officers' carrying of such high-powered weapons was understandable considering the information they had been given.
“You absolutely want to have the rifle up front in this situation. That’s normal for what you believe will be an active shooter situation,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “When officers get the information, ‘active shooter, shots fired,’ without strong evidence to the contrary, they’re going to respond as if it’s an active shooter, shots fired.”
That means “going in hard and fast, basically,” he told the Los Angeles Times.
But several advocacy groups are calling for Williams to be arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter, KABC-TV reported.
Williams, a 10-year veteran on the force, has been on administrative leave since the shooting. One of the bullets he fired at suspect Daniel Elena Lopez, 24, who was also killed, reportedly bounced off the floor and pierced the wall of the dressing room that Valentina and her mom, Soledad Peralta, were in.
In video footage made available to the public, officers can be heard saying, “Slow down, slow down.” But they were not trying to reign in Williams specifically, Saggau told NBC News. It’s a way of communicating to ensure each officer in a situation remembers to look around for potential threats from any direction, he said.
The formation the officers were in was also part of the active-shooter protocol, he said.