Los Angeles police overnight named two of four suspects arrested in connection with the murder of a USC engineering student who was walking home from a study group when he was attacked early Thursday.
Johnathan DelCarmen, 19, and Andrew Garcia, 18, were both booked on suspicion of “murder with special circumstances,” the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement. Garcia also faced allegations of assault with a deadly weapon and robbery, cops said.
Victim Xinran Ji, 24, was allegedly beaten with a baseball bat and possibly with another object in the 12:45 a.m. crime, according to multiple reports:
The motive appeared to be robbery, police said at a news conference, and the teen suspects allegedly committed another mugging afterward at Dockweiler State Beach, where they were apprehended by LAPD Pacific Division officers that morning.
Two other suspects were not named because they are underage. The LAPD says the boy and girl were facing allegations of murder with special circumstances, assault with a deadly weapon and robbery.
A fifth possible suspect, a 14-year-old girl, was arrested in the Dockweiler robbery, cops said. She was not booked in connection with the attack on Ji but still could be as investigators continue to probe the case, police said.
The special circumstances allegations, if adopted by the District Attorney's office, would allow prosecutors to pursue a death-penalty case.
The D.A. will have the ultimate say on what, if any, charges would be filed.
The victim, Ji, hobbled home to his campus-adjacent apartment in the 1200 block of 30th Street following the attack nearby at 29th Street and Orchard Avenue, police said. His death was reported to police about 7 a.m. Thursday.
He's the third Chinese student to allegedly be slain in a robbery near USC since 2012.
Following the announcement of the teens' arrests, USC provost and senior vice president for academic affairs Elizabeth Garrett sent an update to the campus community:
We will continue to do our best to provide a secure environment for our campus and the area around it, hoping to avoid such senseless tragedies. However, this is a reminder to all students, faculty and staff to continue to take precautions, particularly at night.
[Update at 1:10 p.m.]: Four suspects, identified by prosecutors as Jonathan Del Carmen, 19, Andrew Garcia, 18, Alberto Ochoa, 17, and Alejandra Guerrero, 16, have been charged with capital murder, the District Attorney's office announced this afternoon.
A special circumstance of allegedly murdering someone during the commission of a robbery is attached to the case, which could make the adult suspects eligible for the death penalty. Prosecutors said they'll decide later whether to pursue a death penalty case against Del Carmen and Garcia.
Additionally, the D.A.'s office states, “Ochoa, Garcia and Guerrero are each charged with a special allegation that they personally used a dangerous weapon, a bat.”
A subsequent, alleged robbery at Dockweiler State Beach was described by prosecutors this way:
Following the USC attack, the group drove to Dockweiler Beach. McKinney said Garcia, Ochoa and Guerrero allegedly approached a man and woman. They allegedly robbed the woman, but the man managed to escape and flag down police, who were patrolling in the area, the prosecutor said.
As a result, those three also face allegations that include “one count each of second-degree robbery, attempted second-degree robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, a bat, involving the second incident,” the D.A.'s office stated.
All four were scheduled to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m.