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14-year-old girl in dressing room killed by LAPD bullet in shooting that also left suspect dead

Police tape. (Dreamstime/TNS)

A teenage girl at a Burlington clothing store was killed by a bullet from an LAPD officer during a chaotic shooting Thursday that killed the alleged suspect and wounded another person.

Preliminary information released by the Los Angeles Police Department indicated that police rounds penetrated a wall, killing the 14-year old in a dressing room.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore, who was out of town with family but briefed on the incident, called the girl’s shooting “devastating and tragic” in an interview with The Times on Thursday evening.

“It’s just absolutely heartbreaking, and I cannot find words to try to comfort a mother and a family, but I will ensure them and the public and our people that we will conduct a complete and thorough investigation.”

Officers responded around 11:45 a.m. to reports of an assault with a deadly weapon at the store near Victory and Laurel Canyon boulevards, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

At the store, authorities encountered a man they said was assaulting someone, and they opened fire, according to preliminary findings by the Police Department. It was not immediately clear what prompted officers to shoot.

The man was taken into custody and died at the scene, said LAPD Officer Drake Madison, a spokesperson for the department.

During a search for additional suspects or victims, an officer found the slain girl who had been struck by a round fired by the responding officers, LAPD officials said in a Twitter post.

“As officers contacted the suspect and OIS occurred, one of the officer’s rounds penetrated a wall that was behind the suspect, beyond that wall was a dressing room. Officers search the dressing room and found a 14-year-old female victim who was struck by gunfire,” the tweet from the LAPD’s public information officer read.

Another woman was injured and taken to a trauma center, said Nicholas Prange, a spokesperson with the Fire Department. Her condition wasn’t immediately known.

Moore said police were still pulling video of the encounter, including from multiple closed-circuit cameras within the store, but that it appeared the girl was in a dressing room with her mother when she was struck by a bullet fired by an officer on the other side of a wall.

“We have a young girl who was in a dressing room behind a wall that my understanding was in the path of where the officer fired,” Moore said. “This is a devastating and tragic circumstance, and it occurred during the actions of one of our officers.”

Moore said it did not appear that the officer who fired “would have known that there was anyone behind there or that he was looking at anyone other than the suspect and a wall,” but said every aspect of what occurred and why would be analyzed by LAPD investigators.

“There’s not a police officer in America who would ever want this type of circumstance to occur,” Moore stressed.

Moore said Deputy Chief Dominic Choi, who is acting chief in Moore’s absence, was on scene and had been provided a walk through of the incident.

At a news conference Thursday, Choi said the area behind the suspect “just looks like a straight wall.”

Investigators continued processing the scene and hadn’t found a firearm as of the afternoon, he said. A “very heavy” metal cable lock was found near the suspect.

Choi said it wasn’t yet clear whether the lock prompted officers to shoot.

To provide full transparency, Moore said he has directed that the department compile and release by Monday body-worn and closed-circuit video of the incident, as well as radio calls and other available information. He said the store has “an extensive amount” of cameras installed.

The full investigation of the shooting, however, will take longer, he said.

“We’re asking for the public and the news media as well to allow us to conduct a full investigation,” Moore said. “The facts will be the facts, and we’ll have them known.”


©2021 Los Angeles Times.

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