LOS ANGELES >> A day after arrests were announced in the shooting deaths of two international graduate students near the University of Southern California, students on campus say they’re relieved but that the crime hasn’t changed their day-to-day behavior.
Students gearing up for summer programs said Saturday that everyone at USC is told on day one to exercise caution in the neighborhoods around the school near downtown Los Angeles.
Nineteen-year-old Eduardo Millinedo-Pinon says students know to avoid certain areas, to walk in groups after dark and to keep valuables hidden.
On Friday, police arrested two young men in the shootings deaths of two graduate students from China last month, an attack that stunned a school that has more international students than any other U.S. university.
Javier Bolden, 19, and Bryan Barnes, 20, were arrested Friday on suspicion of killing the two during an apparent robbery attempt, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said.
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 were 23 years old.
Their parents filed a lawsuit this week accusing USC of misrepresenting safety at the campus, where nearly one-fifth of the 38,000 students are from overseas, including 2,500 from China.
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 at a news conference. Evidence directly linked both suspects to the victims, he added.
Beck said neither suspect had a long criminal history or is a documented gang member, though 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 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.
In their lawsuit, the victims’ parents alleged that 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.
Zhou Rong, a Beijing-based education consultant who advises Chinese students wishing to study overseas, said the word “urban” to people in China has no connotation of safety.
“I think it only means the location and has nothing to do with safety and crime,” said Zhou, who works for New Oriental Vision Overseas Consulting.
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.
Associated Press researcher Henry Hou in Beijing contributed to this report