Jiangzang Zhang, a teaching assistant for an electrical engineering class, planned to return a midterm during office hours Wednesday morning. Zhang said he was surprised when Ying Wu, a student who is typically one of the first to arrive, had not shown up.
“She’s usually one of the first people there, and I couldn’t see her,” Zhang said. “After about 1 p.m., the news came out.”
After checking Facebook, Zhang learned that Wu and her friend Ming Qu had been fatally shot around 1 a.m. The shooting took place near the intersection of Raymond Avenue and 27th Street, about three blocks west of Vermont Avenue.
“I was really shocked, actually,” Zhang said. “And I also feel sad because she’s somebody so close. I’ve known her for about a year.”
Zhang said Wu and Qu, both 23-year-old graduate students from China studying electrical engineering, were studious and diligent.
“Those people are incredibly hardworking, study at the library until 1 a.m. and then go back home,” Zhang said. “It’s not because they go to a party or something.”
In the wake of the double homicide, USC students and residents of Raymond Avenue expressed grief and shock and reflected on safety precautions near campus.
J.P. Chehade, a graduate student studying civil engineering, said he feels safer because of the security presence on campus.
“I wouldn’t feel OK if the security wasn’t there when I have to walk back to my car,” Chehade said. “Security makes a difference.”
Dept. of Public Safety Capt. David Carlisle said the incident emphasizes the importance for students to remain aware of their surroundings.
“What it points out is that all of us — students, faculty and staff — have to be ever vigilant because this situation may occur wherever you may be,” Carlisle said.
Sam Levy, a junior majoring in civil engineering, said the shooting has not changed his perception of safety around USC because of its distance from campus.
“I saw the location, which seemed pretty far from campus,” Levy said. “Double homicide is pretty big, but I feel like it was far enough away where I don’t feel any more in danger now than I was before. Raymond and Normandie doesn’t feel that close to me.”
Several residents of the 2700 block of Raymond Avenue said they were woken by the gunshots early Wednesday.
“I remember I was sleeping,” said Johnny Rivera, a 22-year-old student at East Los Angeles College. “I was so deep into my sleep. I just dropped down to the floor, and I kind of panicked because I have my sisters in the house and everybody.”
Rivera said, in recent years, more USC students have moved into the area. He said USC students should remain aware of their surroundings, but some of the concerns about safety are exaggerated.
“I’ve lived here my whole life, situations like this don’t occur that much,” Rivera said. “They should be aware, but it’s not even as bad as they say it is, like in movies.”
DPS has not had a report of violent crime in that neighborhood this year, Carlisle said.
“This particular crime occurred in an area that doesn’t have a history of violent crime,” he said.
Lynn Rossi, a Raymond resident who works as an armed security guard, said she also heard the gunshots Wednesday morning. Sitting on the wooden porch of her residence, Rossi said she believes the neighborhood is generally safe.
“I think it’s safe for students, but I do think there needs to be better security in this area in general,” Rossi said. “There should be more patrols through here.”
Though the neighborhood is about three blocks outside DPS’s patrol boundaries, Carlisle said DPS has some license plate recognition cameras on the perimeter of the neighborhood and some video patrol cameras in the community.
“It’s a tragic crime, one that’s very rare,” Carlisle said. “It’s an aberration and our hearts go out to the families of these poor students.”
Joey Kaufman contributed to this report.