Los Angeles Police continue to search for the person who shot and killed two University of Southern California international students from China early Wednesday while they sat in a BMW in the West Adams neighborhood, near campus.
The pair were sitting in the new 3-series luxury car around 1 a.m. when an armed man approached the car and told the students to exit. When they didn't, he fired, shooting them and shattering the car windows. The shooter is still on the loose.
The University of Southern California released the names of the students: The woman was identified as Ying Wu, and the man as Ming Qu, according to a statement posted on USC's website. Another student was identified earlier by USC student reporters as potentially being the female victim, but sources say that while she lives in the same building as Wu, she is fine and "dealing with the situation."
Police now say it may have been an attempted robbery. The students were in their early 20s. Qu managed to walk to the porch of a nearby house to call for help. Neighbors say it’s the same house Wu lived in, but police have not confirmed that.
Paramedics took the victims to downtown's California Hospital Medical Center where they were dead on arrival, authorities said.
"This is every parent's nightmare," police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said.
Four people have been killed this year in the area, police said, but violent crime is down 20 percent this year. USC is in an urban center not far from gang-infested neighborhoods. But gentrification has begun in the West Adams district.
Police said both victims were graduate students studying electrical engineering, according to the L.A. Times.
Eleventh grader Andrea Camarillo said she woke up when her brother ran outside to check on the victims. “He went up to the car and he started screaming, ‘Are you OK?’ and clapping his hands. I guess he was talking to one of the girls that was in the car.”
"I looked outside and it looked like a massive police scene from a movie," said neighbor Charlie Parker. "I saw them put the guy on the stretcher and the ambulance drove off with him. Then I learned that both had died."
"Earlier they cleaned the front of the stairs," said neighbor Gloria Tigalo, "because when I came out I said, 'Oh, there is a lot of blood.'" She added, "In five minutes, firetrucks were here."
Tigolo said the area is peaceful and this is the first shooting she can recall since she moved to the neighborhood three years ago.
Chanelle Yang, a freshman at USC, said she and her friends worry about the neighborhood.
"We definitely do live in more of a bubble than I think we realize," Yang said. "A lot of my friends who don't go to USC — they actually live in the surrounding area — they carry a knife with them, not gonna lie. They do feel unsafe, so it doesn't surprise me that a homicide occurred."
Kevin Brooks is a freshman history student at USC from Maryland. He lives on campus. He said he got a phone call at 6 a.m. from the school and an e-mail, alerting him about the shooting.
“I was rather surprised, because you always hear about crime around the area, but you never hear USC students actually harmed," said Brooks, "and there’s the whole stigma about USC being in a really bad area, and this just kinda continues that bad stigma I guess.”
For decades, administrators at the campus just south of downtown Los Angeles have tried to reassure prospective students and their parents that the area around the USC is safe. University officials have scrambled to contain the fallout from threats to student security, like a spate of armed robberies a year ago and a hit-and-run collision near the campus almost three years ago in which an unlicensed driver killed one student and badly injured another.
Yi Zhang, a 22-year-old international graduate student from China studying computer science at USC, said he lives in a house with three roommates near the shooting scene.
“I’m totally shocked," he said. "I’m worried about my safety here and I feel very sad for the two Chinese people from my former home country.”
USC released a statement on the shooting.
"Our community is saddened and outraged by this callous and meaningless act," the statement read. "Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims’ families and friends and all who knew them at USC. The university is reaching out to those affected, offering counseling and support."
The school's Department of Public Safety is working with police, according to the statement. The statement also emphasized the school's security efforts.
"We will provide more information as we receive it on planned remembrances for our students. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Trojan family."
The school will likely have no further comment today, according to Robert Perkins with USC Media and Public Relations, though they did update their statement with the names of the students.
Chinese college students have helped fuel record international student enrollment on U.S. campuses in recent years. Students from China represent nearly one-fourth of the nearly 724,000 international students attending colleges and universities in this country.
At USC, nearly 35 percent, or 2,513, of the school's 7,226 international students are Chinese, according to the university's 2011 figures. The school, with 38,000 students total, has the largest number of international students of any U.S. university.
The types of students who come from abroad to attend U.S. universities and colleges typically skew wealthier because they have to be able to afford a school's tuition without financial aid. With China's economic boom, more families can now afford to send their children overseas.
Students Kenny Liu and Ken Chen, both Chinese-Americans, are unsure if the shooting will cause an concern overseas because the cause of the shooting is unknown at this point. "If it's racially based, possibly," said Chen, who is studying business. "In general, USC students come here knowing the area isn't the safest."
Liu, 20, who lives nine blocks from where the shooting occurred, said it's not uncommon to see BMWs and other expensive cars parked near the campus.
"If I owned a BMW, I wouldn't drive it here," he said.
A memorial was scheduled for 9 p.m. Wednesday night, hosted by students with the USC Chinese Scholars Association.
See a map of where the shooting took place:
This story has been updated.