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Letters to the Editor: Why 911 callers might say there’s a gun when there isn’t

Flowers, photos and a sign reading "Justice for Valentina" form a memorial outside a Burlington store.
A memorial for Valentina Orellana Peralta at the door of the Burlington store in North Hollywood where the 14-year-old died Dec. 23.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Your recent articles on the situation leading up to the Dec. 23 police shooting at the Burlington department store in North Hollywood that left a 14-year-old-girl dead reference 911 calls claiming that a gun had been seen or a gunshot was heard.

The implication is that the callers believed the suspect was using a gun.

In 30-plus years of adult life in Los Angeles, I have experienced firsthand many times the reality that if a person calls 911 and says that a person is being assaulted or that someone is a threat, the dispatcher routinely asks whether a gun is present. If the answer is no, it can take too long for police to show up.

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It is common practice to claim a gun is present simply to get the police to take the situation seriously. Whether the 911 callers in the Burlington case actually believed a gun was present is very important.

Dawn Halloran, North Hollywood

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To the editor: The accidental shooting of Valentina Orellana Peralta was a tragedy, but it’s always easy to second-guess split-second decisions. As both a doctor and a medical manager, I learned all too quickly that anything I did, or anything I didn’t do, could be criticized by someone.

If the assailant had a gun, as reported in multiple 911 calls, and LAPD officers hadn’t taken swift action and the gunman had shot others while they deliberated, they would be criticized for inaction.

It’s entirely possible that the LAPD’s active shooter protocols need to be revised, but I would caution the public and the media not to jump to conclusions until the shooting is fully investigated.

Daniel Fink, Beverly Hills

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To the editor: Consider how multiple police officers responded to a call about a shooter in a department store (one who actually had no gun). Really, should officers be responding with assault rifles under these circumstances?

They once used revolvers. Then they transitioned to automatic pistols that can fire multiple rounds rapidly.

And now high-powered rifles? Might they soon be responding to such calls with grenades?

This disturbing trend has to stop. It is time to revert to police weaponry that doesn’t pose such dangerous threats to the public.

Arthur Stone, Santa Monica

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To the editor: Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León said that “someone needs to be held accountable for the death of this child.” That someone is Daniel Elena Lopez, the suspect confronted by police.

Sandy Valadez, Sunland


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