Hancock Park

Murder Charge Filed in Killing of UCLA Grad Student at Hancock Park Furniture Store

Shawn Laval Smith accused of using a knife to murder Brianna Kupfer inside a furniture store January 13.

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Prosecutors in Los Angeles filed a murder charge Friday against a transient accused of killing a UCLA graduate student while she worked inside a furniture store on La Brea Boulevard in Hancock Park a week ago.

Shawn Laval Smith, 31, was set to make an initial appearance in LA Superior Court Friday afternoon.

Smith was arrested by Pasadena police around noon Wednesday after someone driving near Fair Oaks and Colorado boulevards recognized him from a police wanted flyer and security video that had been made public a day earlier. 

According to a new criminal complaint Smith is charged with one count of murder, for allegedly killing 24-year-old Brianna Kupfer as she worked alone inside the Croft House furniture store.

The complaint also accuses Smith of using a deadly weapon, a knife, to commit the crime.

The LAPD said Smith appeared to be homeless and had entered several other businesses in the area before Kupfer was killed. Security video from a nearby 7-Eleven store showed Smith purchase a vape pen less than an hour after the murder, detectives said this week. 

Jail records showed Smith was arrested and cited in October 2020 by Covina police for possession of stolen property, after employees at a Home Depot store reported Smith had stolen several items.

The LA County District Attorney's Office said in a case evaluation memo in February 2021 that there was insufficient evidence to file a criminal charge.

"No one saw suspect steal the items, at least no one who will testify," wrote Deputy DA Stephen Dones. "Difficult to prove suspect knew the items were stolen."

The Covina Police Department said Thursday its crime report from the arrest said Home Depot had security video that showed Smith stealing the items, and a Home Depot employee who identified the items found with Smith as stolen merchandise. 

"It is tragic and heartbreaking that Brianna Kupfer was murdered while she worked," LA County District Attorney George Gascon said in a prepared statement emailed to NBC4 when the office provided the filing decision on the Covina arrest. "It is a tremendous loss for her family and friends, the community and Los Angeles County."

Smith was also indicted in South Carolina in early 2020 for a car-to-car road rage shooting, for which he was released on bail while awaiting trial. Prosecutors there filed a motion to revoke the bail after learning of Smith's arrest in Los Angeles, telling the I-Team Smith was required to remain in the state as one of the terms of his release.

It was not clear why Smith's Covina arrest and subsequent fingerprinting and identification did not alert authorities in South Carolina.

Court and jail records there detailed more than a dozen other arrests prior to the road rage incident in November, 2019, in which police said in a court filing that Smith fired a flare gun at another motorist, who's toddler was in the back seat of the targeted car.

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