Suspect in killing of Brianna Kupfer arrested in Pasadena

·4 min read

A man suspected of stabbing to death a 24-year-old woman working at a furniture store in Hancock Park last week was arrested Wednesday in Pasadena, the Los Angeles Police Department said.

Shawn Laval Smith, 31, was arrested after an extensive manhunt across the region.

The LAPD confirmed Smith's arrest on Twitter. He was recognized as he was waiting for a bus near Fair Oaks Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, according to a law enforcement source.

Brianna Kupfer was killed Thursday while working alone at the Croft House furniture store on North La Brea Avenue.

Kupfer, who was from Pacific Palisades, texted a friend about 1:36 p.m. to say she felt uncomfortable about a person who was in the store. The friend did not immediately respond, according to investigators with the LAPD.

About 20 minutes later, a customer who walked into the store found Kupfer on the floor covered in blood. She was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

The LAPD said surveillance video showed Smith entering multiple businesses in the hours leading up to Kupfer's killing. On Tuesday, the department released video showing a man inside a nearby 7-Eleven store about 30 minutes after the killing. He was described as a tall, thin Black man with braided hair, who was last seen wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, dark pants, black tennis shoes, a white mask and a large, black backpack.

Before his arrest, Smith had been seen in Pasadena, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and other locations around Southern California, police said. Authorities believe he is unhoused and used public transportation to get around the area.

In 2016, Smith was arrested in Charleston County, S.C., where he pleaded guilty in 2018 to resisting or assaulting a police officer and was sentenced to time served, according to court records. Smith was marked for extradition in North Carolina on charges of assault with a deadly weapon, carrying a concealed weapon and other crimes.

Smith was also arrested in November 2019 on suspicion of firing a weapon inside an occupied vehicle, according to court records from South Carolina, where he was released on a $50,000 bond. The weapon was a flare gun, an LAPD source said. On Wednesday, a motion was made in court to revoke his bond.

Most recently, Smith was arrested in October 2020 on a misdemeanor in Covina, but the Los Angeles County district attorney's office declined to file charges.

Following Smith's arrest Wednesday, D.A. George Gascón said his office "will review the case as soon as it is presented to us."

"It is tragic and heartbreaking that Brianna Kupfer was murdered while she worked," Gascon said. "It is a tremendous loss for her family and friends, the community and Los Angeles County."

Kupfer’s death has “shaken and shocked our community to its core,” Councilman Paul Koretz said this week. Koretz made a motion for the city to offer a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the woman's killer. The amount was increased to $250,000 by contributions from the community on Tuesday.

Efforts to reach Kupfer's family on Wednesday were not immediately successful, but her father, Todd Kupfer, told The Times on Tuesday that his daughter's death was “heart-wrenching.”

“It’s torn us apart," he said. "We really don’t know what to do and what steps to take. We just want her life to have more meaning.”

Kupfer was one of four children, all of whom grew up in Los Angeles, her father said. She ran track and was on the dance team at Brentwood High School before she went to the University of Miami.

She was taking online courses for a degree in architecture and design at UCLA, her father told The Times, adding that she loved geometrical patterns, design and drawing.

Kupfer started working at Croft House because it was a sustainable furniture company and she was passionate about such causes, her father said.

The family plans to create a foundation to honor her memory but doesn’t know yet what shape that will take.

“Her candle got snuffed out way too young,” Todd Kupfer said.

Times staff writers Richard Winton and Gregory Yee contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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