USC announces $125,000 reward for 2 murdered grad students; LAPD asks public for help

Corey Moore/KPCC

LAPD Deputy Chief Pat Gannon at a Friday, April 13, 2012 news conference on the murders of two USC graduate students.

The LAPD held a news conference Friday afternoon on the two University of Southern California graduate students from China shot and killed near campus, where USC also publicly announced a $125,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer. Flanked by USC staff, Gannon led the news conference in the pouring rain near the scene of the crime on Raymond Street near West 27th.

During a similar spell of weather, someone fired bullets into the parked BMW where electrical engineering grad students Ming Qu and Ying Wu sat about a mile from campus early Wednesday morning.

A possible suspect ran south on Raymond in the rain, and a dark-colored sedan drove away at the same time, according to LAPD Deputy Chief Pat Gannon, the USC Daily Trojan reports. He said that no information suggests gang involvement.

Authorities have not yet released a description of the shooter. Police are sifting through private and public surveillance footage, and they’ve identified dozens of vehicles that may fit the description.

Investigators said the attack Wednesday might have been part of a robbery or attempted carjacking, but other possibilities have not been discounted. Police say some of the victims' belongings were missing.

"If you hear a rumor about this case, please give us a call," Gannon said, according to the Trojan. He added that there were a total of three murders in the area over the past five years, and asked, "Please help me find these killers. Please help the families that’ll be coming from China to recover their loved ones, for me to be able to tell them soon that we have resolved this case." He said he could relate as a father of a grad student who doesn't live at home.

Gannon said the killings hit home.

“I can’t imagine being thousands and thousands of miles away and having something tragic like this happen and not be there to be able to hold my child," Gannon said. "It’s the worst news that a parent could ever have. And I ask you please for your help.”

Jacqueline Hamilton, from victim Ying Wu's host family, said she'd hosted more than 20 international students over the past 11 years. "I've never seen [Wu] happier than in the last three weeks," Hamilton said, talking about her relationship with fellow victim Ming Qu.

"We’ve seen this neighborhood go from the state which the chief described to you of having some real crime," Hamilton said, "to never having to worry about coming home late at night. Never fearing that someone was going to somehow invade our home."

Gannon said that it's unfair to call it a crime-ridden neighborhood, according to the Trojan. Visas were granted to the victims' parents and some extended family members.

The victims were both 23 years old, both studying electrical engineering. They were fatally shot while sitting in a car in an off-campus neighborhood.

The students, both from Beijing, were on track to graduate in December.

This story has been updated.

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