One day after her suspected killer was arrested, dozens of friends, co-workers and Hancock Park residents gathered Thursday outside a furniture store where 24-year-old Brianna Kupfer was fatally stabbed, celebrating her life and decrying the senselessness of her death.
“Bri was the brightest part of anyone’s day who got to interact with her,” Alex Segal, a co-owner of the Croft House furniture store, said at the midday vigil outside the shop where Kupfer was working when she was fatally stabbed one week ago.
“She was smart and capable and intelligent. Kind and friendly and just an incredibly driven person,” he said.
Segal said the community is asking “why is this happening,” but said “I don’t know that there … will ever be a sufficient answer to that question.”
“But you look around at all the people who have shown up for her today. You can see the semblance of how we put this back together,” he said.
Kupfer, a UCLA graduate student, was working alone at the store shortly after 1:30 p.m. last Thursday when a man walked into the store in the 300 block of North La Brea Avenue and repeatedly stabbed her in what police called a random, unprovoked attack.
The suspect — later identified as 31-year-old Shawn Laval Smith — was seen walking away from the store through a rear alley, then was caught on surveillance video casually shopping at a 7-Eleven store blocks away.
After a manhunt fueled by $250,000 in reward money, Smith was arrested around midday Wednesday in Pasadena near Fair Oaks and Colorado Boulevard thanks to tips from the public.
Smith has an extensive criminal history dating back more than a decade, with more than a dozen arrests in three states.
According to Fox11, Smith had nearly a dozen arrests between 2010-2019 in Charleston, South Carolina, including a pending case for allegedly discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle. His other arrests included allegations of trespassing, disorderly conduct, littering, marijuana possession and unlawful entry.
Smith was also suspected in a rash of bicycle thefts in Charlotte, North Carolina, according to Fox11. He also allegedly assaulted a police officer in San Mateo, California.
Smith was arrested in Los Angeles County in October of 2020 on an unspecified misdemeanor charge, according to jail records.
Some people gathered at the vigil questioned why Smith was not in custody, given his extensive criminal background.
“This guy should have been in jail,” one man told the crowd.
A woman who lives near the store told ABC7 she was driving home from work last week when a friend sent her a text message alerting her to the police activity near her house.
“I said, `What? Again? What’s going on here?”’ she said. “Enough is enough. We’re tired of it. We want our community back.”
During the vigil, signs were posted in front of the store. One read “Protect our kids not criminals,” while another stated, “Fund our LAPD.”
“Just the senseless act,” attendee Sharone Alperin told ABC7. “This could have been me. This could have been any one of my friends. It just has to stop. I mean, it’s just unbelievable to believe that this beautiful child was at work one day and she’s not here anymore.”