LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two young men were arrested Friday in the killings of two University of Southern California graduate students from China who were shot in an apparent robbery attempt last month near campus, police said.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said Javier Bolden, 19, and Bryan Barnes, 20, were arrested on suspicion of the murders, which sent shockwaves through the university where nearly 1 in 5 students is from overseas. The victims' parents filed a lawsuit this week accusing USC of misrepresenting the campus' safety.
Ming Qu, of Jilin, and Ying Wu, of Hunan, were shot April 11 while sitting in a BMW about a mile away from the USC campus. Both students were 23 years old.
The motive for their killings was still under investigation, Beck said, but the "evidence points to a street robbery," and investigators believe the killings were part of a larger string of crimes the two men committed in Los Angeles.
"Forensic evidence recovered at the scene linked them to two other attempted homicides," Beck said. Evidence directly linked both suspects to the victims, he added.
Beck said neither suspect had a long criminal history and neither suspect is a documented gang member but police suspect they may have a gang affiliation.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa congratulated the city's police force, which cooperated with the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to investigate the killings and make the arrests Friday.
He praised officers for "diligence in following every lead and investigating every detail."
Beck declined to provide details of how the suspects were pinpointed but said, "This was a crime that shocked this city, and we absolutely left no stone unturned."
Barnes was arrested at a home about five miles from campus Friday afternoon, and Bolden was arrested a few hours later in Palmdale, Beck said. Both were being held without bail and are set to be arraigned Tuesday.
The shooting sent shockwaves through USC, which has the largest number of international students of any U.S. university. Roughly 19 percent of the school's 38,000 students are from outside the U.S., including 2,500 from China.
The campus is located in an urban center a few miles south of downtown. It is across the street from county museums and not far from the Staples Center arena and a gentrifying area of Victorian homes. Yet it is also known as an area that had faced high crime and gang activity.
The victims' parents filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging the school made false claims about safety in the "frequently asked questions" section of its online application.
The 15-page lawsuit accuses USC of hiding behind the word "urban" and not saying the school is in a high-crime residential area. It also notes that Chinese students in particular would interpret urban to mean USC is in a safe area.
"The 'urban' representation misled Chinese students, including Ming Qu, into believing the area is safe since in China, the more urban the area, the safer the area," the lawsuit states, claiming USC understood this is how Chinese students would interpret the description.
USC lawyer Debra Wong Yang said the university was deeply saddened by the deaths but found the lawsuit to be baseless.
The school and city police announced new security measures after the slayings and promised more video cameras, escorts and patrols.
The additional security will include sending over 30 more officers to the department division that handles the USC area, and the university will pay for four additional officers to patrol the student residential neighborhoods, Beck said.
In a statement Friday, USC President C.L. Max Nikias praised law enforcement and city officials.
"The arrest of the suspects in the tragic deaths of our graduate students, Ying Wu and Ming Qu, begins the process of healing and of closing a painful chapter in the life of our community," Nikias said.