Shawn Laval Smith, 31, is wanted for the murder of Brianna Kupfer in Los Angeles. He has a lengthy rap sheet
Los Angeles police have identified the suspect wanted in the fatal stabbing of UCLA grad student Brianna Kupfer, who was brutally slain at her job in a luxury furniture store.
Shawn Laval Smith, 31, was named by LAPD on Tuesday night as the suspect captured on video in chilling footage as he calmly purchased a vape pen from a 7-Eleven just 30 minutes after the cold-blooded murder.
‘He should be considered armed and dangerous. If seen do not approach, call 911,’ police said in a statement.
Brianna was stabbed to death on Thursday afternoon while working alone at the Croft House store on La Brea, just minutes after she texted a friend that a man in the store was ‘giving her a bad vibe’.
Smith is a career criminal with a long rap sheet spanning both coasts, and is currently free on a $1,000 bond from a misdemeanor arrest in Los Angeles County in October 2020, sheriff’s records show.
The nature of that charge wasn’t immediately clear, and it was also unclear why the case still hadn’t been brought to a trial or plea deal 15 months later.
A spokesperson for Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, who took office in December 2020 with a vow to stop prosecuting many misdemeanors, did not immediately respond to an inquiry from DailyMail.com on Tuesday night.
Smith is also currently free on a $50,000 bond in Charleston, South Carolina in relation to a November 2019 arrest on suspicion of firing a weapon into an occupied vehicle, court records show.
An indictment in that case was handed down on March 16, 2020, just before COVID-19 paralyzed the courts, and the docket shows no further action on the case.
The suspected killer has a prolific criminal record, with dozens of prior charges in North Carolina and South Carolina, public records show.
Smith’s prior charges on the East Coast include assault with a deadly weapon, carrying a concealed weapon, assault on a police officer, trespassing, possession of a stolen vehicle, and misdemeanors for larceny and possession of stolen goods. The outcomes of those cases weren’t immediately clear.
He has a history of failing to appear in court, and has been repeatedly arrested on bench warrants. In one case in Charleston, he was convicted in abstentia after skipping court, and does not appear to have served the sentence, which is sealed in court records.
Brianna Kupfer, 24, was stabbed to death in a random attack last Thursday while she was working alone in a luxury furniture store in Los Angeles. She had texted a friend to say someone in the shop was ‘giving her a bad vibe’
In 2016, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department issued a public appeal for information about Smith, saying he was wanted on ’14 active warrants for his arrest for Bicycle thefts he has committed in the Charlotte area.’
More recently, in California, Smith has charges in San Francisco and San Mateo, where he was accused of assaulting a police officer, a law enforcement source told Fox News.
His most recent arrest appears to be for shoplifting, the source said. Smith has been recently seen in Pasadena, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Covina, San Diego and San Francisco, police said.
‘He is highly likely to be using public transportation. Special attention should be given to bus stops and train platforms,’ the LAPD said.
In 2016, Charlotte police issued a public appeal with this DMV photo saying Smith was wanted on ’14 active warrants for his arrest for Bicycle thefts’ in the area
Earlier, at a Tuesday press conference, LAPD Lt. John Radke revealed that minutes before she was killed, Brianna had texted a friend to say someone in the store was ‘giving her a bad vibe’.
The shocking attack appears to be random, with no known connection between the victim and her murderer and no clear motive for the slaying.
Despite his neat and well-kept appearance, cops say they strongly suspect the suspect is homeless, based on his travel on foot as well as information they declined to reveal.
Police say the wanted man was seen walking all throughout the area and entering several stores, speculating that he chose to attack Brianna after he found her working alone.
Brianna, 24, was working alone at the luxury Croft House furniture store in LA’s upmarket Fairfax neighborhood on Thursday when the killer entered at about 1.50pm and stabbed her to death before making his escape through the back door.
Twenty minutes later, another customer walked into the store and found her in a pool of blood. By the time police arrived, she was dead.
On Tuesday, authorities also announced a $250,000 reward for information leading to the murder suspect’s arrest – with $200,000 coming from community donations and the rest from city funds.
‘We will find this vicious criminal, we will get him arrested, and we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law,’ Councilman Paul Koretz said as he announced the reward.
LAPD Chief Michel Moore described the male suspect as African-American, 6 feet to 6 feet 5 inches tall, with a thin build and short dreadlocks.
He was last seen wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, dark pants, black tennis shoes and mirrored sunglasses, and carrying a black backpack.
‘He walked for miles, north, south, east and west, throughout this neighborhood. Someone out there knows this man. Someone out there knows what he did, and boy there’s a lot of money on the table,’ said Lt. Radke.
A still photo from surveillance video shows a suspect in UCLA student Brianna Kupfer’s murder buying a vape pen at a 7-Eleven just 30 minutes after the January 13 stabbing
He is seen in this frame lowering his dust mask to reveal the bottom half of his face
Surveillance video released by the police captured the wanted man strolling into a 7-Eleven located at Beverly Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard – about 4 miles from the crime scene – and handing a sales clerk cash to buy a vape pen.
The man in the video, wearing all black, except for a white dust mask commonly worn by house painters, does not appear in a hurry as he places a bill on the counter and counts a handful of coins. At one point, he briefly lowers his mask.
The store worker hands him the vape pen and the suspect walks away, but he immediately returns and apparently asks to exchange the vaping device for another one.
Chief Moore confirmed that investigators believe the suspect is homeless, based on his travel on foot with a backpack, as well as other information he was unable to release to the public.
Police say the suspected killer was seen walking all throughout the area and entering several stores, speculating that he chose to attack Brianna after he found her working in the store alone.
‘He visited businesses up and down La Brea, and along the Beverly corridor as well, businesses large and small,’ before and after the killing, said LAPD Chief Michel Moore.
The killer spent about four minutes in the Croft House furniture store, during which time he stabbed Brianna with a knife, before he calmly walked out the back door of the store.
Brianna, an architectural design student from Pacific Palisades, was discovered lying in a pool of blood 20 minutes after the attack by a horrified customer, who was heard screaming, ‘Oh, my God!.’
Kupfer died at the scene before help could arrive.
The suspect dressed in all black walked into a store located about 4 miles from the crime scene where Kupfer was found dead
The man appeared calm as he counted the money and handed it to a sales clerk
The suspect was last seen carrying a backpack and wearing mirrored glasses
Kupfer’s father has revealed that his daughter was not supposed to be working on the day she was stabbed inside a high-end furniture store – and he laid some blame for her death on politicians and their skewed priorities.
‘I blame what’s endemic in our society right now, is that everybody seems to be oriented on giving back rights and bestowing favor on people that rob others of their rights,’ Todd Kupfer told Fox News.
Kupfer said he is not blaming any politicians by name, but he argued that their job is ‘to make communities better, to make people care more, not to tear down communities by exposing them to people that are falling out the bottom, that really don’t care about other human beings and just think they can do whatever they like in our society.’
Brianna’s father confirmed to Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy that his daughter was not supposed to be at work that day.
‘You can question everything, you can spend your nights with all the ‘what if’s… but it doesn’t change anything,’ Todd Kupfer said. [Brianna is] a dedicated person. She was at work that day.’
He added: ‘I don’t know why she was there alone, but she was. I don’t think anybody would have anticipated that this could possibly happen there.
‘I don’t think anybody is to blame other than the assailant – the awful person that did this to my daughter.’
Todd Kupfer said he wants his daughter to be remembered ‘as a person, a human being and a caring, loving and devoted family member and a great friend and just a rising star.’
Brianna was not supposed to be working last Thursday, but she ended up at the store alone. Her father said no one could have predicted that she would be attacked, but lashed out at leaders for failing to protect the community
Surveillance video shows a suspect in Brianna’s murder calmly walking away from the crime scene in Los Angeles on Thursday afternoon
Todd (far left) said he wants his daughter Brianna (pictured hugging a pet) to be remembered as a ‘rising star’
Todd Kupfer (right) went on Fox News on Tuesday to talk about the cold-blooded murder of his daughter, 24-year-old Brianna Kupfer, who was stabbed to death in LA last week
The LAPD determined that it was a random attack and the suspect did not know the victim. Police say he was wearing a dark hoodie, sunglasses, a white painter’s mask, and carrying a dark back pack.
‘Crime is truly spiking, and we have a lot of criminals on the streets that shouldn’t be out,’ Kupfer’s father told Fox News.
His daughter had been working as a design consultant for about a year at the high-end furniture store popular with celebrities like Mandy Moore, whose Pasadena home features a Croft House sofa, according to Architectural Digest.
‘She was a kind soul and always was trying to make herself better and everything around her better,’ Kupfer, said as he fought back tears. ‘She cared about people.’
The murder comes amid a huge crime surge in Los Angeles, with homicides in Los Angeles rising 52 per cent last year from 2019, and shooting incidents were up 59 per cent, according to LAPD data.
Kupfer says he believes politicians are ignoring this spike in violent crime.
‘We need to champion [my daughter] as a beacon of what’s wrong and make sure that people recognize that – because it could be their children next, and it’s just an impossible price to pay,’ he said.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón is under fire for failing to crack down on the recent spike in violence.
He won over voters last year with promises of sweeping criminal justice reforms that critics say put the interests of criminals before the safety of the community, Fox News reported.
Brianna (center right) leaves behind her mother, father, brothers Brandon and Tucker and her sister Mikaela, who was her best friend, her family said
LA crime is on the upswing, according to police statistics. Shooting victims have increased 10.6 percent year-to-year and 53 percent from the same point in 2019
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón (left) is under fire for failing to crack down on the recent spike in violence after murders jumped 12.1% last year from 2020 (right)
The city has also suffered a shocking wave of follow-home robberies and organized smash-and-grab attacks on retailers.
Jacqueline Avant, the 81 year-old wife of music producer Clarence Avant, became the most high-profile robbery victim when she was shot and killed at her $2.7 million Beverly Hills mansion in December.
On January 3 in nearby San Jose, nine hammer-wielding thugs stormed a San Jose shopping center and smashed glass display cases at three stores before fleeing with $110,000 in jewelry.
Los Angeles police arrested 14 people last November in connection with 11 recent smash-and-grab robberies at stores, where nearly $340,000 worth of merchandise was stolen.
A Los Angeles Nordstrom, a Lululemon in Studio City, a Fairfax district store, and a CVS pharmacy in South Los Angeles were among the stores hit.
However, due to county’s zero-bail policies, the suspects were all released within hours of being handcuffed.
Gascon said of rising crime rates: ‘The reality is that we go through these cycles, and we go through the cycles for a variety of reasons … In many ways we cannot prosecute our way out of social inequalities, income inequalities, the unhoused, the desperation that we have.’
Police said the male suspect (pictured) is believed to be homeless and fled through the back door before calming walking down an alley
The architectural design student from Pacific Palisades was alone in the Croft House store on La Brea Avenue in LA’s upscale Fairfax neighborhood when a man entered around 1:50 p.m. and stabbed her. She was found 20 minutes later by a customer
Gascon is currently embroiled in a dispute over a transgender woman who has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl, with the DA saying she could be allowed to serve her sentence under house arrest.
Separately, Gascon is facing another scandal after his own cops went over his head to ask federal prosecutors to charge the alleged killers of an off-duty LAPD officer.
LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva sought out the federal prosecution for the four gang members accused of killing Officer Fernando Arroyos, 27, on January 10 over fears pursing them through Gascon could lead to lighter sentencing.
Last year, Gascon axed sentencing enhancements – such as membership of a gang – meaning that Arroyos’ alleged killers would likely be eligible for parole in 25 years if convicted on state charges.
Gascon previously announced he had decided to no longer pursue sentencing enhancements in cases involving gangs as part of an increasingly controversial prison reform policy aimed at boosting ‘equity.’
Riley Rea, co-owner of Croft House, told the LA Times that Brianna was beloved by her coworkers at the store where she had worked for a year.
She added: ‘She was mature beyond her years.’
A memorial for Kupfer has formed outside the Croft House in the days following the deadly attack
A heartfelt note posted to the store’s window this week talks about how Kupfer was beloved by her coworkers
A heartfelt note was posted to the store’s window this week that reads: ‘The entire Croft House family is deeply saddened by the devastating loss of our beloved team member on January 13, 2022. Our La Brea Avenue showroom will be closed until further notice to allow our team members to grieve and process this unthinkable tragedy and in order for law enforcement to complete their investigation.
Please keep the family, friends, and colleagues in close thought during this difficult time as we mourn, cherish, miss, and honor someone we care for so much. The entire Croft House family sends our love to our team member’s family and friends. Please direct all questions related to this tragic event to the LAPD.’
At the bottom of the page is a handwritten note that reads: ‘We love you so much.’
Dr. Jennifer Botelho, the owner of a nearby chiropractic office, said the suspect entered her business shortly before the stabbing.
She said: ‘He came in and asked a couple of questions: ‘Do you do orthopedics here?’ What kind of care we provide, and then he left. So he was just here for a few minutes.’
She added: ‘It’s terrifying. It’s horrible. She’s such a young girl. … We feel so horrible for Brianna’s family, and hope we can catch this guy.’
Her father described as her an ‘angel’ and a clever young woman who was devoted to her family with big aspirations.
Brianna leaves behind her mother, father, brothers Brandon and Tucker, and her sister Mikaela, who was her best friend, her family said.
Anyone with information about the murder of Brianna Kupfer is urged to contact CrimeStoppers anonymously for a potential cash reward at 800-222-TIPS.