An assault suspect was fatally shot by police at a North Hollywood clothing store Thursday, and a 14-year-old girl was killed by what is believed to have been a stray police bullet that passed through a dressing room wall.
Officers were sent to the Burlington store at Laurel Canyon and Victory boulevards about 11:45 a.m. after receiving a 911 call from a person who reported hearing arguing inside the store and shots fired, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
As officers were responding to the call, the LAPD received additional reports of a possible active shooter, Capt. Stacy Spell said.
“As the officers were responding, they arrived at this location and began a search, looking for a suspect,” Spell said. “While conducting that search for a suspect, the officers encountered an individual who was in the process of assaulting another and an officer-involved shooting occurred.”
The suspect, a man, was fatally shot, police said.
LAPD Assistant Chief Dominic Choi said that during a subsequent search, police found a hole in a stretch of drywall that was in front of the officer or officers who opened fire at the suspect.
“We went behind it (the wall), and it turned out to be a dressing room up there,” Choi said. “… We were able to locate a 14-year-old female who was found deceased in that dressing room.”
Asked if the girl was shot by police, Choi said, “Preliminarily, we believe that round was an officer’s round.”
The girl, whose name was not released, was in the dressing room with her mother and was trying on dresses for a quinceañera when she was struck, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing information from an LAPD source.
Choi said it was unclear if the suspect was armed.
“We did not find a gun,” he said. “However, until the coroner gets here and we do a full search of the suspect, that won’t be definitive. But right now we haven’t located a firearm.”
Officers did find a “steel or metal cable lock, a very heavy lock,” near the suspect that may have been used in the assault, Choi said.
A woman who was being assaulted by the suspect when officers arrived was taken to a hospital in unknown condition. She was seen in video footage from the scene being loaded into an ambulance, awake but bloodied.
“This chaotic incident resulting in the death of an innocent child is tragic and devastating for everyone involved,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore, who was out of town with family but briefed on the shooting, said in a statement.
“I am profoundly sorry for the loss of this young girl’s life and I know there are no words that can relieve the unimaginable pain for the family. My commitment is to conduct a thorough, complete and transparent investigation into the circumstances that led up to this tragedy and provide the family and public with as much information as possible.”
Moore added he directed critical incident video from the scene to be released by Monday. The release will include 911 calls, radio transmissions, body worn video and any surveillance video gathered.
Moore told The Times 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.
The LAPD Family Liaison is working closely with the Mayor’s Crisis Response Team and Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez to provide assistance to the 14-year-old girl’s family, a department official said.
The department’s Force Investigation Division and Inspector General’s Office were both on the scene investigating, Choi said.
The California Department of Justice’s California Police Shooting Investigation Team for Southern California deployed to the shooting scene, following notification by local authorities, under provisions of a bill signed into law last year by Gov. Gavin Newsom, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced.
Once the investigation has been completed, the results will be turned over to the California Department of Justice’s Special Prosecutions Section within the Criminal Law Division for independent review.