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Brianna Kupfer murder suspect Shawn Laval Smith is formally charged with murder


Shawn Laval Smith, 31, was charged on Friday with one count of murder and a special allegation that he used a deadly and dangerous weapon, a knife

The suspect in the murder of UCLA grad student Brianna Kupfer has been formally charged with her killing in Los Angeles.

Shawn Laval Smith, 31, was charged on Friday with one count of murder and a special allegation that he used a deadly and dangerous weapon, a knife, in the January 13 killing.

Smith was arraigned in Los Angeles Superior Court, where cameras were not allowed to capture the proceedings. California normally bars cameras from court without an exception from the judge.

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón announced the charges, saying in a statement: ‘Those who show no compassion for human life will face serious consequences.’ 

‘The murder of Brianna Kupfer has left Los Angeles County devastated and my office is reaching out to her family to provide any services they may need,’ added Gascón.

Gascón, a progressive prosecutor who faces a recall initiative after announcing sweeping changes to downgrade and drop charges in many criminal cases, is firmly opposed to the death penalty in all cases.

Smith was arraigned on Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, where cameras were not allowed to capture the proceedings

Smith was arraigned on Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, where cameras were not allowed to capture the proceedings

Brianna was stabbed to death at around 1.50pm while working alone at the Croft House store on La Brea, just minutes after she texted a friend that a man in the store was 'giving her a bad vibe'

Brianna was not supposed to be working on January 13, but she ended up at the store alone

Brianna was stabbed to death at around 1.50pm while working alone at the Croft House store, just minutes after she texted a friend that a man in the store was ‘giving her a bad vibe’

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón vowed 'serious consequences' in the case. Prosecutors in his office are barred from seeking the death penalty

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón vowed ‘serious consequences’ in the case. Prosecutors in his office are barred from seeking the death penalty

When he took office in December 2020, Gascón barred his prosecutors from seeking the death penalty, writing in a memo: ‘The reality is the death penalty does not make us safer, it is racist, it’s morally untenable, it’s irreversible and expensive and beginning today it’s off the table in LA County.’ 

Brianna was stabbed to death at around 1.50pm while working alone at the Croft House store on La Brea, just minutes after she texted a friend that a man in the store was ‘giving her a bad vibe’.

Smith is a career criminal with a long rap sheet spanning both coasts, and at the time of the murder he was free on a $1,000 bond from a shoplifting arrest in Los Angeles County in October 2020. 

Prosecutors in Gascón’s office determined that there was not enough evidence to prosecute the shoplifting case and declined to pursue the charges, court records show.

Following the shocking murder, the LAPD quickly released surveillance video of the suspect leaving the furniture store, as well as buying a vape pen at a convenience store about 30 minutes later. 

Smith was named as the suspect on Tuesday and a massive manhunt ensued. A tip from the public led police to Smith at a Pasadena bus stop on Wednesday, where he was arrested without incident.

The suspect dressed in all black walked into  a store located about four miles from the crime scene where Kupfer was found dead

The suspect dressed in all black walked into  a store located about four miles from the crime scene where Kupfer was found dead 

Smith was arrested by Pasadena cops one day after the Los Angeles Police Department put out a call for help finding the 'armed and dangerous' man

Smith was arrested by Pasadena cops one day after the Los Angeles Police Department put out a call for help finding the ‘armed and dangerous’ man

Smith was taken into custody about 15 miles from the high-end furniture store where Kupfer was killed. 

The accused killer has a prolific criminal record, with dozens of prior charges in North Carolina and South Carolina, public records show. 

He had also been free on a $50,000 bond in Charleston, South Carolina in relation to a November 2019 arrest on suspicion of firing a weapon into an occupied vehicle, court records show. 

An indictment in that case was handed down on March 16, 2020, just before COVID-19 paralyzed the courts, and the docket shows no further action on the case. 

He was convicted by  San Diego prosecutors in 2017 for carrying a concealed dagger and brandishing a deadly weapon in a fight. He was given three years probation and ordered to pay a $400 fine, according to court records. 

Smith has a prolific criminal record, with dozens of prior charges in North Carolina and South Carolina

Smith has a prolific criminal record, with dozens of prior charges in North Carolina and South Carolina

Last year, he was arrested for biting a cop while being taken into custody near San Francisco. 

It’s unclear why he was not held in custody and extradited to South Carolina at that time, as he had open warrants in the Palmetto State. 

Smith suffered from mental health issues and had a history of violence, Velma Washington – who claimed to be his aunt – told Fox Digital

She said she was not familiar with his diagnoses but ‘he was a good boy’. 

The murder comes amid a huge crime surge in Los Angeles, with homicides in Los Angeles rising 52 percent last year, from 2019, and shooting incidents up 59 percent, according to LAPD data. 

Jonathan Hatami, a veteran Los Angeles County prosecutor who has been an outspoken critic of Gascon and even sued him for retaliation last year, hit out at his boss in the wake of Kupfer’s killing, arguing that his progressive policies are failing the community, and that he deserves to be voted out, along with other ‘woke’ DAs in cities with rising crime rates. 

‘No parent should ever have to bury their child,’ Hatami tweeted on Tuesday. ‘But, if you do lose a child to violence, we must have a DA who is willing to stand up and fight for the victims and prosecute these cases to the fullest extent of the law. Every victim deserves a voice and we all deserve justice.’  



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