A reputed gang member was charged Tuesday with killing a USC jazz student, who was the son of an Oakland city councilwoman, during an attempted robbery just blocks from campus.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Teresa Sullivan ordered Ivan Hernandez, 23, to be held without bail while awaiting arraignment Aug. 7 at the downtown courthouse in connection with the March 10 death of 21-year-old Victor McElhaney.
Hernandez is charged with one count each of murder and attempted second-degree robbery — the latter charge involving a friend who was with Victor McElhaney.
The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegations of murder during an attempted robbery and murder by an active participant in a criminal street gang, along with an allegation that he personally and intentionally discharged a handgun. Prosecutors will decide later whether to seek the death penalty against Hernandez, who was arrested Friday by detectives from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Robbery-Homicide Division.
Evidence and witness statements led detectives to believe that Hernandez was involved in the attack, Los Angeles police said in a statement.
Victor McElhaney was killed just after midnight March 10 near Maple Avenue and Adams Boulevard.
Authorities said the young man, who was a student at USC’s Thornton School of Music, was with a group of friends when they were approached by three or four men in their 20s during an attempted robbery that led to the shooting.
McElhaney was the son of Oakland City Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney. He was part of the USC jazz studies program with an interest in the relationship between music and social and political movements. He also mentored young musicians and taught at the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music.
Shortly after the killing, Lynette McElhaney said her son “believed that music could heal the world of violence and sickness and addiction.”
The young man’s shooting death marked the latest of several high-profile killings of students in apparent robberies or attempted robberies near USC’s campus in the past seven years.
Alberto Ochoa, the last of four defendants charged in the July 24, 2014, beating death of Xinran Ji, a USC graduate student from China, was sentenced in March to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Two others, Alejandra Guerrero and Andrew Garcia, had already been sentenced to life in prison without parole, while the getaway driver, Jonathan Del Carmen, was ordered to serve a 15-year-to-life state prison sentence.
Ji had been walking back to his apartment near campus after a study session when he was attacked, and managed to make it back to his apartment, where one of his roommates discovered the 24-year-old electrical engineering student’s body.
Two other USC graduate students from China — Ying Wu and Ming Qu — were shot to death during an April 2012 robbery as they sat in a car that was double-parked on a street near the USC campus. Javier Bolden and Bryan Barnes were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for their killings.
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