When Edwin Arroyo, supervisor of Nancy’s Cleaning Services, headed out to work before 7 a.m. Friday, he had no idea it was to the scene of a shooting he’d heard about on the news.
His assignment was the Burlington clothing store in North Hollywood, where on Thursday an LAPD officer fatally shot a 14-year-old girl, Valentina Orellana-Peralta, who was trying on clothes in a dressing room. The officer was firing on a suspect, and one bullet went through a wall and struck the girl, police said.
On Friday morning, Arroyo cleaned up broken glass outside the front doors before he headed to the second-floor dressing rooms inside.
It was there that he found blood smeared on a wall, on a cream colored dress left on a hanger and more than a dozen other items.
“It was a horrible scene,” Arroyo said. “I don’t know how many gunshots there were, but there was a lot of blood everywhere.”
“The little girl was trying on a dress,” he said, his tone grim. “The parents never imagined their daughter would die here.”
Later, Arroyo, who wore a pair of white gloves and a black surgical mask, wheeled out a gray trash can filled with 25 items he needed to dispose of, including the dress. There were picture frames, vases and cups.
Arroyo has two daughters, ages 12 and 18. On Thursday, he said, they were out Christmas shopping.
“I can’t imagine that happening to one of my daughters,” he said. “It hurt me so much being there. I could imagine having that same pain because I’m a father.”
Around 11:30 a.m. Friday, Arroyo had finished cleaning. He prepared to leave, not for another job but for home, where he planned to hug his daughters tight.
Valentina was at the Burlington store trying on dresses for a quinceañera at the time of the shooting, a Los Angeles Police Department source confirmed to The Times.
Officers responded to a call about an assault with a deadly weapon at the store in the 12100 block of Victory Boulevard about 11:45 a.m. Thursday and shot the suspect a short distance from a woman “suffering from various injuries and bleeding,” police said.
The unidentified woman was later taken to the hospital for treatment of her injuries, police said. Her condition was not immediately known.
Valentina was in a changing room with her mother when an officer fired a round through a wall near the assault suspect, striking her and killing her at the scene, according to preliminary information from police.
The assault suspect, who was also shot and killed by police, was identified as Daniel Elena Lopez, 24, by the county coroner.
During a search of the premises for additional suspects or victims, an officer found the slain girl in the dressing room, LAPD officials said.
A heavy metal cable lock — no gun — was recovered from near the suspect, police said.
Other residents tried to come to terms with the shooting, with some expressing outrage.
Graciela Cornejo, 70, who lives near the store, said she heard about the shooting from her daughter after she got home from work around 6 p.m.
“Fourteen years old. She was 14 years old. A little girl,” said Cornejo, who lost her 24-year-old son this past February. “I know the pain this family is going through. Why do they have to go through this? Why? … it’s the worst pain in the world.”
She also questioned the police response.
“¿Cómo se pueden disparar a lo loco?” she asked. How can they shoot crazy like that?
“They’re trained for all of this. I just can’t understand.”
Regardless of whether the family gets a settlement, Cornejo said, she doubts that’ll ease their pain.
“Money is nothing,” she said. “It’s not a life. It’s not going to bring back their daughter.”
As rain started to come down, Leila Murca, 22, ran up to leave white roses in front of a flickering candle outside the store.
She and her family live in North Hollywood and wanted to do something in memory of Valentina.
“We felt bad, so we were like let’s leave something nice for the family,” Murca said.
“As a mom, I just wanted to leave flowers,” said Linda Murca, Leila’s mom. “My heart really goes out to the mom in this difficult time.”People kept walking up to the store. A man left another bouquet of flowers beside the white roses.