Update: “Ying Wu and Ming Qu, USC Grad Students From China, Identified as Shooting Victims.”

A man and a woman murdered in their BMW near the USC campus this morning were graduate students from China, according to the LAPD. They are both thought to have been in their 20s.

Cops found the students suffering from multiple gunshot wounds around 1 a.m., near the intersection of Raymond Avenue and West 27th Street. According to City News Service, the woman was slumped in the passenger seat, while the man…

… lay motionless on the steps of a nearby house. (So he might have been trying to get help.) It appears the car had been in motion, because it was in the middle of Raymond Avenue, riddled with bullets and one window shot out.

The neighborhood surrounding the crime scene includes some student housing — but it's definitely far enough from campus to be unprotected from the USC “bubble,” as some call it.

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The LAPD's media relations office tells us that it could have been an attempted carjacking, but “the investigation is still ongoing.” If somebody was indeed trying to take the Chinese students' BMW, that would pretty much be the ultimate depiction of wealthy USC at odds with the ghetto on which it sits. [Update: KNX news radio is reporting that the newer-model BMW was worth $45,000.]

“Sad & ironic that a prestigious & expensive schools sits in a low income & violent neighborhood,” says a Twitter user named @robnmozangeles.

The homicide rate in West Adams has actually been lower than usual this year, but two student deaths near campus kind of blows any feeling of security of the water.

Captain David Carlisle, head of USC's Deptartment of Public Safety, confirms to the Daily Trojan that the victims were “international students.” He calls the midnight murder a “tragic loss.”

Here's the “Trojan Alert” that the department sent out to students this morning:

“Wednesday morning, April 11, 2012, two individuals, a male and a female, were shot in a car in front of a residence on Raymond Avenue near 27th Street in Los Angeles. The female victim has been identified as a USC student. Los Angeles Police Department responded immediately to the scene and the victims were taken to California Hospital where they were pronounced dead. Names of the victims are withheld pending notification of next of kin. The circumstances surrounding the shooting are unclear.”

Witnesses told police they saw a single assailant fleeing the scene.

UP NEXT: USC students react. Will this change the foreign perception of an education at L.A.'s most prestigious private university? Also, USC officials try to calm everybody down.

ATVN, USC's student television station, interviewed LAPD Commander Andy Smith at the scene:

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Residents at nearby homes tell the Los Angeles Times that over the last decade, gang activity — especially drug-dealing — has increased in the area, which houses a mixture of students and working-class Angelenos.

Will this affect the perception of USC to Chinese students interested in studying abroad? We spoke with a reporter at the China Press in Los Angeles who felt that indeed, the double homicide will cause a scare back at home.

Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal just ran a piece this morning on the flood of Chinese applicants to U.S. grad schools. From the piece:

The outsized rate of growth in China is due in part to a concerted effort by some U.S. schools to attract Chinese students. The thinking, say school administrators, is that international students who stay in academia will connect U.S. schools with new research partners, while those entering the corporate world may become clients of business schools' lucrative executive education programs.

A whopping 25 percent of the USC graduate student body is international.

Nobody really has anything nice to say about the neighborhood in which this possible carjacking and cold-blooded murder took place. “You could have given me free rent and I still wouldnt have lived anywhere near 27th St and Raymond Ave, where 2 #USC students were shot,” says one apparent alumnus on Twitter.

Updates to come on the identities of the victims as soon as they're available.

Update, 12 p.m.: Michael Jackson, vice president of USC Student Affairs, just posted this letter to the campus community.

Dear USC students, faculty and staff:

Many of you have heard or read about the tragic event that occurred early this morning in the neighborhood west of campus. Two of our international graduate students were shot and killed while sitting in a car on Raymond Avenue – near the intersection of Normandie Avenue and Adams Boulevard. We are not able to release the names of the students until we reach their next of kin.

Our community is saddened and outraged by this callous and meaningless act. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims' families and friends and all who knew them at USC. The university is reaching out to those affected, offering counseling and support.

The Los Angeles Police Department and our Department of Public Safety are working aggressively to solve this crime.

This incident occurred outside the neighborhood areas where over the past several years we have steadily increased our security presence, adding dozens of security and license plate recognition cameras, uniformed officers, and yellow-jacketed security ambassadors. However, tragedies such as this morning's remind us that we all need to be continuously vigilant about safety and security.

While crime in our community is low compared to other areas of Los Angeles, we want to reassure you about ongoing efforts to promote safety in the neighborhoods around campus, including a public safety task force for students, parents, faculty and staff; a community safety task force with the USC Family of Schools; and a collaboration on public safety issues between the Department of Public Safety and the area's neighborhood councils. These efforts, among others, have succeeded in significantly improving safety in our surrounding community.

Finally, we urge anyone who would like counseling or other support to contact Student Affairs at (213) 740-2421 or Student Counseling Services at (213) 740-7711. Other important resources include Trojans Care for Trojans, at sait.usc.edu/ca/tc4t/, and for faculty and staff needing assistance, the USC Center for Work and Family Life at (213) 821-0800. Chaplaincy services are also available through the Office of Religious Life at (213) 740-6110.

We will provide more information as we receive it on planned remembrances for our students.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Trojan family.

The Times has been interviewing more neighbors, who describe the slain couple as private and reserved. “They almost never talked to anyone,” says resident Julia Martinez.

“They kept to themselves and rarely drove around town,” reports the Times. The man and woman had apparently just moved into an apartment on Raymond a few months ago.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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