Crime & Justice

USC murder: Friends and family of victim and suspects flood courtroom

"My babysits, he's a loving person. He goes to church," Andrew Garcia's father, Cresencio Garcia Jr. said. "He's never been in jail for anything. It's not him. It's not his nature."
Rina Palta/ KPCC

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Friends and family of the victim and suspects flooded the courtroom where four teens accused of beating to death a USC graduate student from China appeared Tuesday. Their arraignment has now been postponed to August 12.

The four are accused of killing Xinran Ji during a crime spree that included the robbery and assault of several victims on the night of July 23 and early hours of the 24th.

Prosecutors say Jonathan Del Carmen, 19; Andrew Garcia, 18; Alberto Ochoa, 17; and Alejandra Guerrero, 16, face charges that include one count of murder each with a special circumstance of murder in the course of an attempted robbery. Three face a special allegation that they used a dangerous weapon — a baseball bat. 

The D.A.'s office tells KPCC that the two underaged suspects are being charged as adults. 

Prosecutors say Ji was hit in the head with the bat and managed to make his way home, but died sometime in the following hours. Several of the accused are suspected driving to Dockweiller Beach after attacking Ji and assaulting another man with a bat before police caught up with them.  

George He, a friend of the family of the victim, Xinran Ji, read a statement from his parents. They haven't been able to get a visa to travel to the U.S. and said they just want to see their son a final time.

"We are extremely angry about this horrific act of violence and we hope that the criminals are severely punished," He read of behalf of Ji's parents. "Even though Xinran lived within the USC patrol area he was still killed. We are deeply concerned about other students at USC, particularly the 3,700 Chinese students there. We do not want to see another incident like this. No parent should have to bear this pain." 

Family members of Andrew Garcia, an 18 year-old charged in the crimes, yelled words of encouragement to Garcia as they left the courtroom. Outside, his brother Chris told reporters that his brother was picked up that night by friends who told him they were just going to the beach — that his brother would never have gone along on a crime spree.

"Andrew wouldn't do this. He's just not that kind of person," Chris Garcia said. "To get mad and yelling, Andrew's not like that. He's a special needs student."

If convicted, two of the teens, who are adults, could face the death penalty. The juveniles charged in the case face life in prison.

The school's reputation has already suffered a blow overseas. In 2012, two USC students from China were fatally shot during an off-campus robbery.

You can read the full complaint here:

The full complaint