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Man Charged with Murdering College Student Brianna Kupfer in Los Angeles Furniture Store

Brianna Kupfer appears in a social media image shared by KABC-TV. (Image via screengrab.)

Brianna Kupfer appears in a social media image shared by KABC-TV. (Image via screengrab.)

A reportedly homeless California man has been officially charged with murdering a 24-year-old UCLA student found knifed to death while working alone at an upscale furniture store.  Shawn Laval Smith, 31, is accused of “one count of murder and a special allegation that he used a deadly and dangerous weapon, a knife,” according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.

A customer discovered Brianna Kupfer, of Pacific Palisades, dead on the floor of the Croft House, a North La Brea Avenue retailer, on Jan. 13.  The grisly discovery occurred about 15-20 minutes after Kupfer texted a friend that someone had walked into the store and was giving her “a bad vibe,” LAPD Lt. John Radtke said earlier in the investigation. Smith is alleged by police to have fled through a back door after fatally stabbing Kupfer; he was then seen on surveillance video heading north through an alley behind the store, according to the LAPD.

Shawn Laval Smith appears in mugshots released by the Los Angeles Police Department.

Shawn Laval Smith appears in mugshots released by the Los Angeles Police Department.

Smith was arrested Wednesday in Pasadena, the DA’s office said.  Police could not ascribe a motive to the attack.

District Attorney George Gascón directly addressed the incident.

“Those who show no compassion for human life will face serious consequences,” he said. “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.”

Smith, who was reportedly living in a shelter, was scheduled for arraignment on Friday.

Authorities have also released some of the several 911 calls that reportedly resulted in Smith’s arrest.

“Hello, I am, uh, calling because I see a gentleman who looks very similar to the suspect in the Kupfer stabbing in L.A.,” one caller said. “I’m in Pasadena . . . he just walked past the corner of Green and Terrace in Pasadena.”

“He had a black hoodie on,” the caller  continued.  “He had on, like, dark sweat pants. And he had a backpack, a black backpack that was very similar to the one I’ve seen” in wanted posters and videos distributed by the LAPD.

The caller said he was driving when he made the observation; Smith was said by the caller to be walking East toward Pasadena Avenue.

Officers caught Smith on a park bench; bystander video captured his subsequent arrest.  The police told CBS News in Los Angeles that the arrest was peaceful.

FOX News and the New York Post highlighted Smith’s lengthy criminal history.  He reportedly had been in trouble in South Carolina and was said to have been out on bond for “allegedly shooting a flare gun at a stranger’s rear car window as a toddler sat in the backseat during a road rage incident in Nov. 2019” in that state, FOX News said.  “Due to a COVID-19 backlog of cases, he has not had a single court date since his release — but as a condition of his bond he was not allowed to leave South Carolina.”

He ended up in California nonetheless and subsequently was charged with — and served time for — assaulting an officer, resisting an executive order, and vandalism, FOX News said.  But his brush was the law in the Golden State did not trigger an extradition back to the Palmetto State, and it was unclear why.

According to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department jail records, Smith is locked up at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility with a $2 million bail.

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.