UPDATE: Shawn Laval Smith, the suspect responsible for the murder of Brianna Kupfer is in custody, after being located and detained by Pasadena PD around 11:50 a.m. this morning in the area of Fair Oaks and Colorado Boulevard. Learn more here.
Shawn Laval Smith considered armed and dangerous, police say
By Sam Catanzaro
Police have identified a man wanted for the murder of Brianna Kupfer, a Pacific Palisades woman working at a furniture store in Hancock Park.
On Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) announced that Shawn Laval Smith as the suspect in the January 13 murder of 24-year-old Kupfer. Smith remains at large and is considered armed and dangerous. The LAPD says anyone who sees him should not approach him and call 911 immediately.
Police describe Smith, a 31-year-old Black man, as 6 feet, 2 inches tall and around 190 pounds. The LAPD believes him to be homeless and has been in numerous Southern California cities, including Pasadena, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Covina and San Diego. Police noted that Smith is likely to use public transportation, and has frequently at bus stops and train platforms.
The LAPD has released footage from a nearby 7-Eleven store, showing Smith shopping 30 minutes after Kupfer’s death. He was also at other stores before and after the murder, police added.
“This individual responsible for this vicious, senseless and brutal crime walks amongst us,” said LAPD Chief Michel Moore said during a Tuesday press conference.
Over the past few years, various police departments across the country have arrested Smith. In 2020, Covina police arrested him for a misdemeanor of receiving stolen property not prosecutors did not press charges. Smith also appears to have been released on a $50,000 bond in South Carolina in connection to a 2019 arrest on suspicion of firing a weapon into an occupied vehicle, the NY Post reported. In addition, in 2016 Smith pleaded guilty to attacking a Charleston police officer “but it was not immediately clear what sentence he was given in the case that was closed in 2018,” the Post adds.
“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’s father Todd told the Post. “We all recognize that this could have happened to anybody’s child. It’s just senseless. My daughter was a completely innocent victim and there was 100 percent no provocation.”
Now, thanks to private donations, a $50,000 reward the City of Los Angeles is offering for information leading to Smith’s arrest has increased to $250,000.
“We will find this vicious criminal, we will arrest him and we will get him prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” LA City Councilman Paul Koretz said Tuesday after introducing a motion to create a $50,000 reward. “But we must fight for justice for her even though nothing will bring her back. 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.”
Koretz represents Council District 5, which includes Hancock Park. Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin, who represents Pacific Palisades where Kupfer resided, has not released a public statement other than posting the LAPD details on Smith.
Kupfer was working at Croft House, a furniture business located on the 300 block of North La Brea Avenue, at the time of the murder. A graduate of both Brentwood High School and the University of Miami, she had been working on a degree in architectural design at UCLA.
Riley Rea, a co-owner of the furniture store, told the Los Angeles Times that Kupfer had been working at the business for just over a year and she was intelligent, poised and well-liked by her peers, noting, “she was mature beyond her years.”
“I’m absolutely devastated for her and her family,” Rea said. “It just seems so disgusting and unexpected. Really there are no words to say how shocked we are to lose such a wonderful person.”
The LAPD says Kupfer immediately had a bad feeling when Smith walked into the store.
“She sent a text to a friend saying there was someone inside the location that gave her a bad vibe. Regrettably, that person sees the text immediately,” said LAPD Lieutenant John Radtke.
Around 15 minutes later, a customer discovered Kupfer stabbed to death. Police say there is no known motive.
The suspect was seen leaving the store through the backdoor and fleeing into an alley, heading in the direction of La Brea and Oakwood avenues.
Anyone with information relating to Smith’s whereabouts can contact LAPD West Bureau Homicide investigators at (213) 382-9470.