Brianna Kupfer - latest: Covid backlog caused delay in trial of suspect Shawn Laval Smith on gun charge

·21-min read

The man wanted on suspicion of the murder of 24-year-old Brianna Kupfer has been taken into custody in California.

The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that Shawn Laval Smith was arrested by Pasadena police at around 11:50am that morning in the area of Fair Oaks and Colorado Blvd in Pasadena - roughly 17 miles from the luxury furniture store where Ms Kupfer was found murdered on 13 January.

“We can confirm, Shawn Laval Smith, the suspect responsible for the murder of Brianna Kupfer is in custody,” the department tweeted.

A huge manhunt had been underway to track down Mr Smith, 31, after the LAPD identified him on Tuesday night as the only suspect in the UCLA graduate student’s murder.

Ms Kupfer was alone working in the Croft House store when she was stabbed to death in what is believed to be a random attack. She was found bleeding on the floor by a customer and died at the scene.

Surveillance videos captured the suspect leaving the shop through a back door and then buying a vape pen in a 7-Eleven.

Police said she texted a friend about a customer with a “bad vibe” moments before her killing.

Key Points

  • Covid-19 court backlog delayed trial of Shawn Laval Smith on firearm charges for more than two years: Report

  • Suspect arrested in Pasadena after six-day manhunt

  • Police share new video of suspect

  • Kupfer’s father blasts crime surge

  • New images of suspect released as LAPD reveal Brianna texted friend

  • Reward money tops $250,000

Case draws comparisons to LA nurse assault

02:30 , Justin Vallejo

On the same day Ms Kupfer was killed, a nurse died after she was assaulted by a homeless person at a bus stop in downtown Los Angeles.

Sandra Shells, 70, was waiting for a bus at Union Station on 13 January when an assailant later identified as Kerry Bell allegedly hit her in the face, knocking her to the ground.

Ms Shells suffered a fractured skull and was rushed to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Many reacting on social media have pointed to the deaths of Ms Kupfer and Ms Shells as evidence that crime in the city is out of control.

The Independent’s Nathan Place has more:

LA nurse dies after assault by homeless person at bus stop, police say

01:30 , Justin Vallejo

The deaths of Michelle Alyssa Go, Sandra Shells and Brianna Kupfer in random killings shine a spotlight on homelessness, violent crime and gender-based violence, writes The Independent’s Rachel Sharp.

“All three women were then murdered in what appears to be random acts of senseless violence by homeless men. Their killings, which all took place across just three days last week, have once again thrust concerns around a rise in violent crime and homelessness in America’s major cities into the spotlight.”

Three women killed in random attacks by homeless men: What does it say about America?

Watch: Suspect Shawn Laval Smith 30 minutes after Brianna Kupfer murder

00:30 , Justin Vallejo

Police released video of suspect Shawn Laval Smith enter a 7-Eleven store just 30 minutes after the murder of Brianna Kupfer.

Watch the chilling footage below:

Covid-19 court backlog delayed trial of Shawn Laval Smith on firearm charges for more than two years: Report

Wednesday 19 January 2022 23:40 , Justin Vallejo

The suspect in the murder of Brianna Kupfer was out on bond for more than two years as a Covid-19 court backlog delayed his trial on a prior firearm offence, Fox News Digital reported.

Shawn Laval Smith was charged with firearm offences over a November 2019 attack in which he allegedly fired a flare gun through the window of car while a toddler was in the back seat.

The felony carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison but a 1,330-case Covid-19 backlog in the South Carolina county has left Mr Smith waiting years to face trial, according to a court clerk and records quoted by Fox News Digital.

There was no case activity between March 2020 until prosecutors moved to revoke his $50,000 bond on Wednesday, March 18, the outlet added.

‘She was a kind soul’: Father remembers Brianna Kupfer

Wednesday 19 January 2022 23:00 , Justin Vallejo

Before the arrest of suspect Shawn Laval Smith, the father of Brianna Kupfer remembered his daughter as a “kind soul”.

“She was a kind soul and always was trying to make herself better and everything around her better,” the victim’s father, Todd Kupfer, told Fox News Digital Monday. “She cared about people.”

Who is Brianna Kupfer? Everything we know about UCLA grad student

Wednesday 19 January 2022 22:18 , Oliver O’Connell

Brianna Kupfer has been described by loved ones as a “kind soul” who “glowed with positivity”.

At the time of her death, the 24-year-old was seeking a graduate degree in architectural design at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).

She was also working as a design consultant at the Croft House upscale furniture boutique in Hancock Park in the west of Los Angeles where she was murdered on 13 January. She leaves behind her parents and three siblings.

Ms Kupfer was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended Brentwood High School. She then graduated from the University of Miami. Ms Kupfer’s father, Todd Kupfer, remembered her as always trying to improve the world around her.

This is everything we know about Brianna.

Who is Brianna Kupfer? Everything we know about slain UCLA grad student

Who is Shawn Laval Smith? Homeless suspect in stabbing of UCLA grad student Brianna Kupfer

Wednesday 19 January 2022 21:48 , Megan Sheets

Shawn Laval Smith, 31, was arrested in connection to the stabbing UCLA graduate student Brianna Kupfer to death at a Los Angeles furniture store.

Mr Smith is said to have a lengthy rap sheet spanning the US from South Carolina to California.

His most recent arrest was for shoplifting, according to Fox News. He was also jailed in San Mateo for assaulting a police officer, the outlet reported.

Los Angeles County jail records also showed an October 2020 arrest on a misdemeanour charge. He was released on $1,000 bail in that case, the outcome of which was not immediately clear.

Before that case, records reportedly showed Mr Smith was arrested in Charleston, South Carolina, on suspicion of firing a weapon into an occupied vehicle in November 2019. He was released on $50,000 bond in that case.

He also reportedly faced multiple arrests in Cherokee, North Carolina, between 2015 and 2018.

Prior to Mr Smith being named in connection with the Kupfer case, police said they believed the assailant was homeless.

Who is Shawn Laval Smith? Convict wanted for fatal stabbing of Brianna Kupfer

LAPD confirms arrest of ‘suspect responsible for the murder of Brianna Kupfer’

Wednesday 19 January 2022 20:58 , Rachel Sharp

The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed that Shawn Laval Smith was located and detained by Pasadena police at around 11:50am on Wednesday morning in the area of Fair Oaks and Colorado Blvd in Pasadena.

“We can confirm, Shawn Laval Smith, the suspect responsible for the murder of Brianna Kupfer is in custody,” the department tweeted.

“We would like to thank the public, the media and our partners at Pasadena PD for their support in apprehending the suspect.”

Shawn Laval Smith arrested by Pasadena police

Wednesday 19 January 2022 20:47 , Rachel Sharp

The man suspected of murdering Ms Kupfer has been arrested and taken into custody by Pasadena Police, according to FoxLA.

Shawn Laval Smith was taken into custody on Wednesday afternoon near the intersection of E. Colorado Boulevard and Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena, the outlet reported.

No further details are yet known.

The Independent has reached out to Pasadena Police for comment.

Have you seen this man?

Wednesday 19 January 2022 20:29 , Rachel Sharp

The LAPD is asking for the public’s help in finding Shawn Laval Smith, the man suspected of murdering Ms Kupfer on 13 January.

He is described as a 31-year-old Black male, 6 foot 3 in height and weighing 190 pounds.

Investigators said he should be considered armed and dangerous and, if spotted, members of the public should call 911 and not approach him.

If anyone has information call LAPD West Bureau Homicide at 213-382-9470. After hours or on weekends, call 877-LAPD-247 (877-527-3247). To remain anonymous visit http://LACrimeStoppers.org

Wanted poster released by the LAPD for the man suspected of murdering Brianna Kupfer (LAPD)
Wanted poster released by the LAPD for the man suspected of murdering Brianna Kupfer (LAPD)

Prosecutor Jon Hatami hits out at DA George Gascón’s ‘progressive politics'

Wednesday 19 January 2022 20:04 , Rachel Sharp

LA prosecutor Jon Hatami has hit out at LA County District Attorney George Gascón following the deaths of Ms Kupfer and nurse Sandra Shells, who was attacked and killed on the same day in the City of Angels.

Mr Hatami, who prosecuted the well-known child abuse case of Gabriel Hernandez, said “progressive politics” from liberal prosecutors like DA Gascón are failing communities across the country.

“A 70-yr-old nurse, a 24-yr-old grad student, and a 16-yr-old girl were recently murdered in separate incidents in LA. George Gascón says “crime is overwhelmingly down,”’ he tweeted on Wednesday morning.

“I say we need a DA that holds criminals accountable, fights for victims & justice and believes in public safety.”

Mr Hatami said in an interview with Fox News that someone who “fails to fight for victims” should not be a district attorney.

“Nobody should have to be around a district attorney who fails to fight for victims and fails to fight for the family members of victims,” he said.

“Nobody should have a district attorney who refuses to file charges against murderers and rapists and child abusers to the fullest extent of the law. That person does not deserve to be the DA.”

Victim’s father says video shows killer has ‘no remorse’

Wednesday 19 January 2022 19:35 , Rachel Sharp

Ms Kupfer’s grieving father said that the surveillance footage of his daughter’s suspected killer shows he has “no remorse” for her brutal murder.

Todd Kupfer told ABC News: “It just feels as if he did this without remorse.

“The limited video evidence we were able to see didn’t look like somebody that cared for an act of incredible violence that had just occurred.”

Mr Kupfer added: “We would love to see this guy off the street.”

Surveillance footage, released to the public before the suspect was named, captured Mr Smith casually strolling out of the back exit of the furniture store and walking through an alley way minutes after the attack took place.

Mr Smith was then picked up on surveillance footage around 30 minutes later inside a 7-Eleven store buying several items including a vape pen.

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp has more:

Brianna Kupfer’s father reveals moment he heard about daughter’s murder

ICYMI: Witness describes moment Kupfer’s body was found

Wednesday 19 January 2022 19:00 , Megan Sheets

Many members of the Hancock Park community have spoken out to share their shock at Ms Kupfer’s killing.

Herman Hinks, who works as a security guard across the street from the Croft House furniture shop, recalled the moment two customers came out of the store after discovering her body.

“I saw them walk out and I just see sheer terror. She was screaming like ‘Oh my God, oh my God,’” Mr Hinks told KABC. “At that point, I was trying to make my way over. There was too much traffic. By that time, police came from everywhere. When I walked that way, you could see through the window and when I looked down, I said: ‘Oh my God, that’s the young lady that works at the store.’”

Mr Hinks remembered Ms Kupfer as “very friendly”.

“I see her every morning. She come in, she opens the shop. Real friendly woman,” he said. “She’ll look back and wave. Everybody over here is friendly. We look out for one another in the area.”

DA’s office under fire

Wednesday 19 January 2022 18:30 , Megan Sheets

Ms Kupfer’s shocking murder has led to an outpouring of grief and anger on social media as a police manhunt for the suspect continues for a sixth day.

Many sharing their horror directed criticism at Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, accusing him of failing to halt surging levels of violent crime.

Mr Gascón was elected to the DA’s office in 2020 after promising widespread criminal justice reform and issued a directive that prevented prosecutors from seeking the death penalty, and provided sentencing enhancements or cash bail in non-violent cases.

Mr Gascón has previously stated that the “tough on crime” approach has failed.

Angelenos wrote of their anger at the city’s crime policies on social media, and suggested they may have led to Ms Kupfer’s death.

The Independent’s Bevan Hurley has more:

Outpouring of grief and anger on social media over killing of Brianna Kupfer

Kupfer ‘glowed with positivity'

Wednesday 19 January 2022 18:00 , Megan Sheets

Ms Kupfer has been described by loved ones as a “kind soul” who “glowed with positivity”.

At the time of her death, the 24-year-old was seeking a graduate degree in architectural design at UCLA and working as a design consultant at the Croft House upscale furniture boutique.

Ms Kupfer’s father, Todd Kupfer, remembered her as always trying to improve the world around her.

“She was a kind soul and always was trying to make herself better and everything around her better,” the heartbroken father said. “She cared about people.”

Her friends told CBS: “The world has been robbed of a productive member of society – who glowed with positivity.”

The Independent’s Oliver O’Connell has more:

Who is Brianna Kupfer? Everything we know about slain UCLA grad student

Kupfer’s father recounts moment he heard of her death

Wednesday 19 January 2022 17:30 , Megan Sheets

Ms Kupfer’s father recounted the moment he learned his daughter had been killed in an emotional interview with ABC News on Wednesday.

“It was 30 minutes, but it felt like days,” Todd Kupfer said. “You don’t want to hear it and you don’t want to believe it. You process it a little bit and ... it’s the worse feeling I’ve ever had in my life.”

As for the 24-year-old’s killer, he said: “We would love to see this guy off the street. It just feels as if he did this without remorse. The limited video evidence we were able to see didn’t look like somebody that cared for an act of incredible violence that had just occurred.”

Kupfer likely targeted because she was alone

Wednesday 19 January 2022 17:00 , Megan Sheets

Los Angeles police have said Ms Kupfer was likely targeted by her killer because she was alone in the Croft House furniture store.

At Tuesday’s press conference, LAPD Chief Michel Moore said of the suspect: “He visited businesses up and down La Brea, and along the Beverly corridor as well, businesses large and small,’ before and after the killing.”

The comment came after Dr Jennifer Botelho, who owns a chiropractic practice next door to Croft House, recalled coming face to face with the suspect moments before the stabbing.

“He asked a couple of questions: ‘Do you do orthopedics here?’ What kind of care we provide and then he left. So he was just here for a few minutes,” Dr Botelho told CBS Los Angeles.

She also said that she’s been forced to ramp up security at her business in recent months due to an increase in crime in the neighbourhood.

Offering her condolences to Ms Kupfer’s family, she said: “It’s terrifying. It’s horrible. She’s such a young girl. … We feel so horrible for Brianna’s family, and hope we can catch this guy.”

‘We’ll miss her greatly'

Wednesday 19 January 2022 16:30 , Megan Sheets

Los Angeles council member Paul Koretz delivered a statement from Ms Kupfer’s family at a press conference on Tuesday.

“Brianna, who was born, educated and was building her career here in Los Angeles, was a rising star in this community whose ascent was unnecessarily cut short by the actions of a heartless criminal last Thursday,” the statement read.

“In many ways she embodied everything that was great about Los Angeles and the entire city should grieve over this senseless act.

“Brianna was a smart, driven, funny and kind soul who only wanted to better herself and her community on a daily basis.

“While she could be shy at times, she lit up any room she was in, and strove to elevate everyone she met so they could be better versions of themselves.

“She deeply loved her family and friends, and made every day better simply by her presence.

“We’ll miss her greatly, and there won’t be a day that goes by that we don’t think of her.”

The family thanked members of the community who had donated $200,000 to helping to find Ms Kupfer’s killer, and expressed the hope that he would be apprehended and convicted quickly.

Suspect purchased vape pen after attack

Wednesday 19 January 2022 16:00 , Megan Sheets

Surveillance video from a 7-Eleven store purportedly showed suspect Shawn Laval Smith purchasing a vape pen about half an hour after Ms Kupfer was killed.

In the footage, recorded about four miles from the crime scene, the suspect appeared calm and collected as he handed cash to a sales person.

He was wearing all black with sunglasses and a white dust mask that he briefly lowered.

Watch the video here via Independent TV.

Police released surveillance video purportedly showing Shawn Laval Smith at a 7-Eleven about 30 minutes after the murder (LAPD)
Police released surveillance video purportedly showing Shawn Laval Smith at a 7-Eleven about 30 minutes after the murder (LAPD)

Vigil for Kupfer

Wednesday 19 January 2022 15:30 , Megan Sheets

The Hancock Park community is set to hold a vigil for Ms Kupfer on Thursday outside the Croft House furniture store where she worked as a design consultant.

It will begin at 1.30pm, around the time that she was stabbed to death inside the store one week earlier on 13 January.

“The idea has come up spontaneously since we are horrified by the murder of Brianna Kupfer,” organizer Yael Kopple said. “We have put a flyer together asking people to join outside the store at the time of the murder.

“The purpose is to show solidarity together with bringing awareness of how we can be more involved to restore safety in the community.”

ICYMI: Father blames spiking crime

Wednesday 19 January 2022 15:00 , Megan Sheets

Ms Kupfer’s father condemned politicians for failing to curb soaring crime in the days after his daughter’s murder.

“Crime is truly spiking, and we have a lot of criminals on the streets that should not be out,” Todd Kupfer told Fox News in an emotional interview on Monday.

“We have a lot of politicians that somehow forgot about people and think the key to getting elected is to support the lowest rung of our society and to give them rights and somehow that’s the answer to getting votes.”

The Independent’s Arpan Rai reports:

Brianna Kupfer: Father of student stabbed to death slams politicians for crime spike

Homeless crime wave in LA

Wednesday 19 January 2022 14:30 , Megan Sheets

Investigators’ belief that Ms Kupfer’s killer is homeless renewed concerns over a rise in violence among the homeless community in Los Angeles and around the country since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rev Andy Bales, CEO and president of Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row in Los Angeles, tells The Independent that what he has seen in the last two years is unlike anything he has seen during the 35 years he has been working to support people living in homelessness.

“I’m certainly seeing violence and behaviours among people devastated by homelessness that I’ve never seen in the last 35 years,” he says.

“Most often it’s violence towards others who are homeless and they suffer the brunt of it.

“But in LA, 70 percent of people devastated by homelessness are on the streets and so this presents conditions where pedestrians on their way to work will meet people who are in different states of mental illness.”

He adds: “In LA, there are encampments everywhere you go and people who are struggling are everywhere.”

Public instructed not to approach Smith

Wednesday 19 January 2022 13:58 , Megan Sheets

Police warned the public not to approach suspect Shawn Laval Smith as he is considered “armed and dangerous”.

Instead, anyone who believes they’ve spotted him should immediately call 911.

Anyone with more general information on his whereabouts is urged to contact West Bureau Homicide investigators at (213) 382-9470 or Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads).

Everything we know about Shawn Laval Smith

Wednesday 19 January 2022 13:30 , Megan Sheets

Five days after Ms Kupfer was murdered, police identified Shawn Laval Smith as her suspected killer on Tuesday.

The Independent’s Megan Sheets explains everything we know about the 31-year-old:

Who is Shawn Laval Smith? Convict wanted for fatal stabbing of Brianna Kupfer

Three women killed in random attacks by homeless men

Wednesday 19 January 2022 13:10 , Megan Sheets

Brianna Kupfer was working her shift in a furniture store. Michelle Alyssa Go was catching a train. Sandra Shells was waiting for a bus.

All three women were then murdered in what appeared to be random acts of senseless violence by homeless men.

Their killings, which all took place across just three days last week, have once again thrust concerns around a rise in violent crime and homelessness in America’s major cities into the spotlight.

The Independent’s Rachel Sharp reports:

Three women killed in random attacks by homeless men: What does it say about America?

City leader vows justice

Wednesday 19 January 2022 12:47 , Megan Sheets

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz on Tuesday urged other city leaders to add $50,000 more to the $200,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the suspect.

“We will find this vicious criminal, we will arrest him and we will get him prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.

“But we must fight for justice for her even though nothing will bring her back. Our mission and my objective is that the perpetrator that took away Brianna from her beloved parents, colleagues, friends and our community will be permanently locked away, constantly reminded of his horrible, ugly and senseless murder of an innocent young woman who had endless potential.”

Suspect’s lengthy rap sheet

Wednesday 19 January 2022 12:17 , Megan Sheets

Shawn Laval Smith, the man currently sought for Ms Kupfer’s murder, is said to have a lengthy rap sheet spanning the US from South Carolina to California.

His most recent arrest was for shoplifting, according to Fox News. He was also jailed in San Mateo for assaulting a police officer, the outlet reported.

Los Angeles County jail records also showed an October 2020 arrest on a misdemeanour charge. He was released on $1,000 bail in that case, the outcome of which was not immediately clear.

In announcing Mr Smith as a suspect in Ms Kupfer’s murder, police released two mugshots from a previous arrest and a photo taken after the killing:

Kupfer’s last text revealed

Wednesday 19 January 2022 11:25 , Megan Sheets

At Tuesday’s press conference, police revealed Ms Kupfer texted a friend expressing concern about someone who had entered the Croft House furniture store.

“She sent a text to a friend letting her know that there was someone inside the location that was giving her a bad vibe,” LAPD Lt John Radtke said. “Regrettably, that person did not see the text immediately.”

The man Ms Kupfer mentioned is believed to be 31-year-old Shawn Laval Smith, who was identified as the only suspect in her slaying later on Tuesday. He remains at large.

Who is Brianna Kupfer?

Wednesday 19 January 2022 10:38 , Eleanor Sly

Brianna Kupfer has been described by loved ones as a “kind soul” who “glowed with positivity”.

At the time of her death, the 24-year-old was seeking a graduate degree in architectural design at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).

She was also working as a design consultant at the Croft House upscale furniture boutique in Hancock Park in the west of Los Angeles where she was murdered on Thursday 13 January. She leaves behind her parents and three siblings.

Oliver O’Connell has more:

Who is Brianna Kupfer? Everything we know about slain UCLA grad student

Images of tributes paid to Brianna Kupfer

Wednesday 19 January 2022 08:40 , Eleanor Sly

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