Authorities have identified Shawn Laval Smith, 31, as the suspected killer of UCLA grad student Brianna Kupfer, who was stabbed to death on Jan. 13 in a furniture store. The motive for the attack on the 24-year-old Croft House employee is still unclear, but police believe that he was homeless and that the two did not know other each prior to the stabbing.
Investigating what happened after Brianna Kupfer was pronounced dead, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) released video of the suspected killer shopping at a 7-Eleven reportedly just 30 minutes after the attack.
Fleeing through a back door and into La Brea avenues in Los Angeles, Shawn Laval Smith is still at large and considered highly dangerous, according to LAPD. The 6-foot-2 suspected killer was said to frequent public transportation routes. He is believed to be homeless.
“We will find this vicious criminal, we will arrest him and we will get him prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz said on Tuesday as he introduced a $50,000 reward for any information on the suspected killer. Private citizens quickly raised that total to a record-breaking $250,000. Shawn Laval Smith was identified later that night.
“We must fight for justice for her even though nothing will bring her back,” Councilman Koretz continued. “Our mission and my objective is that the perpetrator that took away Brianna from her beloved parents, colleagues, friends and our community will be permanently locked away, constantly reminded of his horrible, ugly and senseless murder of an innocent young woman who had endless potential.”
According to LAPD, Shawn Laval Smith was previously arrested on gun charges and aggravated assault of a police officer. Most recently, in October 2020, he was released on $1,000 bail after a misdemeanor charge. He was also let go on $50,000 bond in South Carolina back in November 2019, the New York Post reported on suspicion of firing a weapon into an occupied vehicle.
However, Todd Kupfer, Brianna Kupfer’s father, said that he “heard his rap sheet is much worse” from the LAPD, insinuating that Smith should never have been let out on bail in 2020.,
“We all recognize that this could have happened to be anybody’s child,” Todd Kupfer said, “It’s just senseless. My daughter was a completely innocent victim and there was 100 percent no provocation … This touched a really raw nerve. This needs to be a reminder for everyone to ask themselves, ‘Look, do we really want this kind of danger in our lives? What are we doing here?’ This has to change.”
“I don’t see us healing anytime soon,” Brianna Kupfer’s father told CBS News. “I would love to tell you that there’s going to be a point we’re going to be better, but I feel like it’s going to be a big missing piece.”
Brianna was studying architectural design and worked at the high-end furniture store as a design consultant. Right before the attack, LAPD found that she texted her friend that someone in the store was giving her a “bad vibe.”
“I’m absolutely devastated for her and her family,” said Riley Rea, Brianna Kupfer’s boss at Croft House. She was alone in the store when the attack happened and was found later by a fellow employee.
“It just seems so disgusting and unexpected,” Rea continued. “Really there are no words to say how shocked we are to lose such a wonderful person.”
A vigil for Brianna Kupfer is set to take place on Thursday, Jan. 20 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in front of the Croft House furniture store.
Anyone with information on Shawn Laval Smith is instructed not to approach him and call the police, as he could still be armed with a knife and dangerous.