USC will hold a memorial Tuesday for Victor McElhaney, a senior who studied music, in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center Ballroom from 6 to 8:30 p.m. McElhaney died March 10 in Los Angeles from a gunshot wound to the head, the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office confirmed. He was 21.
“Victor was a son of Oakland,” his mother, Oakland District 3 Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney, wrote in a statement to the Daily Trojan. “He was a musician who drew his inspiration from the beat, soul and sound of the Town and he belonged in every nook and cranny of Oakland.”
McElhaney was approached by three to four suspects around 12:24 a.m. Sunday during a possible failed robbery attempt at Maple Avenue and Adams Boulevard, the Los Angeles Police Department said. One of the suspects shot McElhaney, and the suspects fled the scene in a vehicle. McElhaney was taken to a hospital by the Los Angeles Fire Department shortly thereafter, where he died later that morning, according to the LAPD.
An LAPD investigation into the matter is ongoing, and no arrests have been made as of Sunday.
Interim President Wanda Austin sent a memo informing the USC community of McElhaney’s death. Austin offered her condolences to his friends and family in her email.
“He believed in the power of music to touch lives, to heal and to bring hope,” the email read.
McElhaney was part of the Jazz Studies program at the Thornton School of Music and was interested in the relationship between music and social and political movements, Austin said. He was also dedicated to community service — he was a mentor for young musicians and taught at the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, the email read.
Peter Erskine, the director of Drumset Studies at Thornton and one of McElhaney’s instructors, said in an email to the Daily Trojan that McElhaney was an active participant at the school.
“Victor was already playing at a professional level when he came to USC,” Erskine said. “His audition was a welcome breath of fresh air — he had the touch, the feel and the musical understanding of a seasoned jazz musician … Victor was always the first to volunteer to play in any group class.”
Thornton jazz studies adjunct instructor Kathleen Grace said McElhaney was her student for a year.
“He was full to the brim with musical ideas that he wanted to share,” Grace said in a statement. “There was a spark in his eyes at all times, and an openness to all the world had to teach him.”
Thornton also set up a website for students and other USC community members to submit photos and remembrances of McElhaney ahead of the memorial event.
McElhaney transferred to USC from Cal State, East Bay in 2017. Beyond music, he was also involved at the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs at USC, Austin’s email read.
CBCSA sent a statement to its mailing list about McElhaney’s death March 10.
“Whether it was through his music or through his conversation, he challenged others and himself to think outside of the box,” the CBCSA email read.
As a councilwoman, McElhaney’s mother has actively fought gun violence in Oakland. She helped pass laws like Measure Z, a public safety initiative that funded prevention strategies against gun violence, according to the City of Oakland’s website.
“We are beginning a new chapter in this reoccurring circle of violence,” she wrote. “And it will take all of us together to make it through this tragedy.”
Berkeley-based organization Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency created a GoFundMe fundraising page on behalf of McElhaney’s family on Monday, according to the site. The organization is a nonprofit that fights homelessness and community violence in the East Bay.
As of Monday, the page has raised over $70,810, surpassing its original $30,000 fundraising goal and its $50,000 stretch goal. Donations included a $10,000 contribution from the Oakland Athletics, according to the GoFundMe page.
“Funds will be used to assist the McElhaney Family with final arrangements and a memorial concert in honor of Victor McElhaney and the families of victims of gun violence,” the GoFundMe page said.