LAPD identifies suspect in stabbing of UCLA grad student Brianna Kupfer

Los Angeles police identified the man they say stabbed UCLA student Brianna Kupfer to death inside a high-end furniture store where she worked, hours after offering a record-breaking $250,000 reward for information leading to the suspected killer.

Shawn Laval Smith, 31, was considered armed and dangerous and “highly likely to be using public transportation,” the LAPD announced Tuesday.

Covina Police Department officials said Smith was arrested and released from jail without paying bail in October of 2020 after being cited for a misdemeanor, but the father of the victim told The Post he “heard his rap sheet is much worse.”

Kupfer, 24, was killed the afternoon of Jan. 13 in a random attack as she worked alone in the store at Croft House on North La Brea Ave., police said.

She had texted a friend to say someone came into the store and was “giving her a bad vibe,” LAPD Lt. John Radtke said at a news conference prior to the release of the suspect’s identity.

The killer then stabbed Kupfer in what cops said was “a random act of violence,” then left through the back door without taking anything, cops said. He was seen calmly walking down the street, according to cops.

A would-be customer later found Kupfer dead. Police had released surveillance footage of the suspect and announced the large reward — a combination of municipal reward money and community donations.

Photograph of Briana Kupfer.
Prior to her murder, Kupfer had texted a friend to say someone came into the store and was “giving her a bad vibe.”
APEX / MEGA
Flowers and candles are placed outside Croft House store in honor of Brianna Kupfer.
Kupfer was working inside Croft House, a high-end retail store, when Shawn Laval Smith allegedly came in and stabbed her to death.
AP

Todd Kupfer said he felt some relief that police were able to identify the suspect who killed his daughter and hoped an arrest will be made soon. He said investigators told him they had a solid break in the case.

“The detectives felt really confident that the surveillance videos and various information they had would lead them to positive identification,” Kupfer told The Post Tuesday night.

“I don’t know exactly what the break was but the detectives told me they were working. These are good detectives who really care about their jobs and who were working very diligently and they were reassuring me that this was something they’re working on 24/7.”

According to Sgt. David Rodriguz of the Covina Police Department, Smith was arrested on Oct. 27, 2020 at a Home Depot for misdemeanor receiving stolen property. Smith bought an item at the store, but employees stopped him after they found other things from the store in his possession, Rodriguez said.

Covina Police released Smith the same day without bail but cited him to appear back in court. However, the LA County District Attorney’s Office decided not to file any charges for that arrest, Rodriguez said.

According to Charleston County court records, Smith was charged for felony discharging a firearm on Nov. 14, 2019. He posted a $50,000 bond on Nov. 23, 2019. As part of his release, Smith was ordered not to contact victims or any family members of the victims, and not to verbally harass them on social media.

Shawn Laval Smith has been released from jail on $1,000 in October of 2020 after being charged with a misdemeanor, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department records show.
Shawn Laval Smith has been released from jail on $1,000 in October of 2020 after being charged with a misdemeanor, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department records show.
Los Angeles Police Department

The grieving father said that police told him Smith should have been behind bars.

“I heard his rap sheet is much worse than that, but that tells you that somebody is not doing their job and there needs to be a change,” Kupfer said.

“We all recognize that this could have happened to be anybody’s child. 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.”

The killer stabbed Kupfer, as cops said was “a random act of violence,” then left through the back door without taking anything, cops said.
The killer stabbed Kupfer, as cops said was “a random act of violence,” then left through the back door without taking anything, cops said.
LAPD

Kupfer was studying architectural design and worked at the store as a design consultant.

The 6’3” 190 pound Smith had recently been in Pasadena, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and other southern California locations, according to a poster released by LAPD.

The department said “special attention” should be given to bus stops and train platforms in the search.

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