A criminal who had been released without bail in 2020 is being hunted in the stabbing death of a 24-year-old graduate student who was working at a California furniture store.
Brianna Kupfer, who had graduated from the University of Miami and was in a master’s program for architectural design at UCLA, was stabbed to death Thursday while working alone at Croft House in the Hancock Park area, according to KNBC-TV.
The Los Angeles Police Department on Tuesday released images of a suspect, 31-year-old Shawn Laval Smith, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound black man described as “armed and dangerous.”
31-year-old Shawn Laval Smith has been identified in connection with the murder of Brianna Kupfer, which occurred in the 300 block of North La Brea Avenue on January 13, 2022. He should be considered armed and dangerous. If seen do not approach, call 911. pic.twitter.com/jZlESB9l9r
— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) January 19, 2022
Police in Corvina, California, said Smith was arrested Oct. 27, 2020, on a misdemeanor charge for allegedly taking items from a Home Depot store and was released on bail, according to the New York Post.
However, Sgt. David Rodriguez of the Covina Police Department said the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office did not file any charges against him.
Todd Kupfer, the slain woman’s father, said he was told by police that the suspect should not have been on the street, according to the New York Post.
“I think our city leaders need to make smarter decisions about what they do with criminals and how they incarcerate them,” he said Monday. “I get it, there is a lot of racial injustice. But it doesn’t change the fact that somebody who is doing evil shouldn’t just get a slap on the wrist. Unfortunately, this is what we are seeing now.”
In other words, Briana Kupfer is a casualty of “bail reform.”#TheirLivesMatterToo
— Leo Kiely (@kiely_leo) January 19, 2022
Kupfer said police told him they were confident of an arrest.
“The detectives felt really confident that the surveillance videos and various information they had would lead them to positive identification,” he said Tuesday. “I don’t know exactly what the break was, but the detectives told me they were working.
“These are good detectives who really care about their jobs and who were working very diligently, and they were reassuring me that this was something they’re working on 24/7.”
Kupfer added, “We all recognize that this could have happened to be anybody’s child. It’s just senseless. My daughter was a completely innocent victim and there was 100 percent no provocation.
“This touched a really raw nerve. This needs to be a reminder for everyone to ask themselves, ‘Look, do we really want this kind of danger in our lives? What are we doing here?’ This has to change.”
Police identified Smith from security camera footage, the Post reported.
Dr. Jennifer Botelho, the owner of a nearby chiropractic office, said he had stopped into her practice.
“He came in and 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,” Botelho said.
“It’s terrifying. It’s horrible,” she said of the crime. “She’s such a young girl. We feel so horrible for Brianna’s family, and hope we can catch this guy.”
Breaking: Woman killed at Croft House on N. La Brea has been identified as 24 year old Brianna Kupfer. LAPD says Kupfer was working alone when a homeless man stabbed her to death and ran into back alley. Killer remains on the loose. Police believe this was a random attack. pic.twitter.com/Cqw8MN2mjw
— Jeff Vaughn (@JeffVaughn) January 15, 2022
Police believe Smith interacted with others that day.
“He walked for miles, both north, south, east and west throughout this neighborhood,” LAPD Lt. John Radke said, according to KNBC. “Someone out there knows this man. You need to come forward.”
Rewards totaling about $250,000 have been amassed to help catch the suspect, according to Los Angeles council member Paul Koretz.
“This individual responsible for this vicious, senseless and brutal crime, he walks amongst us — I’m convinced of that,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said during a news conference on Tuesday.
Koretz read a statement from Kupfer’s family that said, “This is exactly the type of community support Brianna sought to provide in everything she did. Please take the time to hug and cherish your family today as Brianna would’ve wanted.”
“It is with great sadness that the entire Kupfer family mourns the passing of our beautiful daughter Brianna as a result of this horrific attack,” the family said in an earlier statement, according to the Post.
“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,” it said. “In many ways she embodied everything that is great about Los Angeles, and the entire city should grieve over this senseless act.”
Kupfer was killed about 2 p.m. Thursday after she had texted a friend that there was someone in the store who gave her “a bad vibe.” Her body was discovered by a customer.
Police do not believe anything was taken from the store.
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