A homeless man suspected of fatally stabbing a 24-year-old UCLA grad student inside a Hancock Park furniture store was charged Friday with murder.
Shawn Laval Smith, 31, is expected to be arraigned Friday afternoon in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom on the murder charge, which stems from the Jan. 13 killing of Brianna Kupfer. She was attacked while working alone inside the Croft House boutique furniture store in the 300 block of North La Brea Avenue.
The murder charge against Smith includes an allegation that he used a knife in the commission of the crime.
Smith was arrested Wednesday in Pasadena following a weeklong manhunt fueled by $250,000 in reward money.
Los Angeles police Lt. John Radke said Kupfer was working alone inside the store around 1:30 p.m. when she was killed.
“She sent a text to a friend letting her know that there was someone inside the location that was giving her a bad vibe,” Radke said. “Regrettably, that person did not see the text immediately.”
Her body was found in the store by a customer about 15 minutes after the text was sent. Radke said the attack appearance to be completely random and unprovoked.
Smith was seen on surveillance video walking away from the store through a rear alley. Surveillance cameras also caught him casually shopping about 30 minutes later at a nearby 7-Eleven store. He was also spotted shopping at other stores before and after the killing, police said.
On Thursday, dozens of people gathered for a vigil outside Croft House — celebrating Kupfer’s 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. “She was smart and capable and intelligent. Kind and friendly and just an incredibly driven person.”
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.
Smith, who is jailed in lieu of $2 million bail, has an extensive criminal history dating back more than a decade, with more than a dozen arrests in three states.
According to Fox 11, Smith had nearly a dozen arrests between 2010 and 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 Fox 11. 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.”