Los Angeles County Criminal Courts Building. Photo by John Schreiber.
Los Angeles County Criminal Courts Building. Photo by John Schreiber.

Calling it a case of “senseless” violence, a prosecutor on Thursday told jurors that a 22-year-old man charged in the shooting deaths of two USC graduate students from China approached them from behind with another man as the couple sat in their car near the campus more than two years ago.

In his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Dan Akemon told the Los Angeles Superior Court jury Javier Bolden approached the BMW on the passenger side as Bryan Barnes approached the vehicle on the driver’s side and that Bolden shouted to Barnes to “get what you can get” after Barnes fired two shots inside the car at Ying Wu and Ming Qu on April 11, 2012.

Defense attorney Andrew Goldman urged the seven-woman, five-man panel to “keep an open mind” during Bolden’s trial.

Bolden’s attorney told jurors that his client spent close to an hour denying any involvement in the killings when he was questioned by police, then told them “what they wanted to hear” shortly after he was warned that he could face the death penalty. He said Bolden was 19 at the time and “under duress.”

Barnes, now 22, was charged along with Bolden.

Barnes, also 22, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after pleading guilty Feb. 5 to a pair of first-degree murder counts and admitting that he had personally used and discharged a firearm in the shooting deaths of the 23-year-old graduate students who were killed as they sat in a double-parked car on a rainy night in the 2700 block of Raymond Avenue, near the USC campus.

Bolden also could face life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of the killings.

“This is a case about senseless street violence,” Bolden said.

Bolden told jurors two cellular phones were taken from the vehicle after Wu and Qu were shot, and that Qu crawled out of the vehicle and across the street to try to get help after he was shot once in the head by Barnes.

Wu was shot once in the left side of the body and once in her right arm, Akemon said.

Shell casings found at the scene matched those found at the scene of a shooting about two months earlier and about three miles away in which a man was left “bedridden” in a convalescent home with permanent brain damage after being shot in the head, according to the prosecutor. A woman was also shot and injured during the Feb. 12, 2012, attack.

Bolden is charged with attempted murder and assault with a firearm in connection with that shooting, along with an allegation that he personally used a firearm in that crime.

Bolden’s attorney told jurors that his client “is just making things up to try to look tough” during a conversation with a confidential informant in jail about the killings.

“We believe that statement is not reliable,” Goldman told jurors.

Goldman said cellular telephone tower evidence was also “not conclusive to Mr. Bolden being there.”

Bolden and Barnes were arrested May 18, 2012, in connection with the killings.

At Barnes’ sentencing, XiYong Wu said his family had waited almost two years for justice for his daughter, who came to the United States with a dream and great expectations for the future and planned to return to China after graduating.

Through a Mandarin interpreter, the victim’s father called the pain of losing his only child “excruciating.”

“Every life deserves respect, and he has no right to take away my daughter’s life. My daughter is gone, so is my hope,” he said.

XiYong Wu noted that on his daughter’s birthday that the family lit her birthday candles, cut her birthday cake and sang at her grave.

“Our tears have not dried, and the only reason that gives us courage to live is waiting to see today,” he said. “My family and I want to see the murderer receive his due punishment …”

Wanzhi Qu said his son — whom he described as a straight-A student and a “brilliant young man” — “came with beautiful dreams but died tragically.”

“After my son passed away, my wife and I always wake up crying at night. In our dreams, our beloved son is covered in blood, crying out to us, ‘Dad, I am so cold. I suffered a horrible death for absolutely no reason! You must help me get justice!” Son, I am here today to help you get justice,” he said.

Qu’s father said that he had been so excited to hear that his son had fallen in love with Ying Wu and that he had looked forward to meeting their future daughter-in-law and thinking about what presents he should buy her and where he should take her sight-seeing.

“But, in only nine days, our joy had turned to mourning because you killed them in cold blood,” Qu’s father said, speaking directly to Barnes. “Our children left us and you took our heart and soul away … You devastated our lives. You deserve the death penalty.”

Barnes’ plea spared him from a potential death sentence. The prosecution later opted not to seek the death penalty against Bolden.

City News Service

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