Family of slain student holds peace stand-in

Community members lit prayer candles and laid down roses to commemorate of USC student Victor McElhaney. (Natalie Oganesyan/Daily Trojan)

“Stop the silence to stop the violence. We’re going to say something. Do something.”

On Saturday, over 50 community members gathered on the corner of Maple Avenue and Adams Boulevard, where USC student Victor McElhaney was shot and killed in early March, to call for the identification of the 21-year-old’s killers and justice for his family.

“We need the public’s help,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren Price. “I hope that today’s gathering sends a clear, clear message. We are committed to finding these killers and bringing them to justice. We will not tolerate fear and we are not going to tolerate folks terrorizing our neighborhoods.”

The day before, McElhaney was honored with a posthumous degree in music studies with an emphasis in jazz during the Thornton School of Music’s satellite ceremony.

Angelique Smith, mother of the late rapper Nipsey Hussle, said she wanted to spread light even in the face of immense darkness.

“We’re mothers who were affected by violence, [and] yet our main message is a message of love,” Smith said.

McElhaney’s parents Oakland Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney and her husband Clarence McElhaney joined Price, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, community activists and local nonprofit organizations in raising awareness for street gun violence. Members of Brothers Breaking B.R.E.A.D., an organization dedicated to uplifting black men at USC, and Black Student Assembly were also in attendance.

“We will not rest until this matter is appropriately resolved and these perpetrators are brought to justice,” Ridley-Thomas said.

In the ongoing police investigation, the Los Angeles Police Department, who was also in attendance in solidarity, said they believe the suspects are three young Latino men, who fled the scene in a four-door dark-colored sedan.

“We are asking for your help, the community’s help to partner with us, to partner with the family in identifying the suspects,” said lieutenant Dan Thompson.

During the stand-in, attendees passed out flyers with information on the suspects and how to send in anonymous tips. Attendees also lit prayer candles and laid down roses in commemoration of McElhaney’s life.

“I don’t know how to think of justice for Vic,” Lynette said. “We’ve got some men out there who … [have] taken guns, and they’ve taken my baby’s life. They need to be brought in to account for that action so that they can be restored. They don’t need to be at large where they can do harm to another mother’s child.”

Soldiers Against Violence Everywhere Center Oakland (S.A.V.E.), a nonprofit founded by Theresa Butler and Lynette that aims to end street gun violence, co-sponsored the event. The organization was started nine years ago and holds monthly stand-ins for gun violence victims in Oakland.

“We started [S.A.V.E.] out of the church [the McElhaneys and I go to] and they have been part of it since the beginning,” Butler said.

Former BSA co-director Nia Warren said Victor McElhaney, whom she had known since childhood, taught her a lot about history, social justice and love.

“I see being a good person to an entirely new standard,” Warren said. “The bar is raised because [of Victor].”

Warren added that she was saddened by the fact that Victor McElhaney could no longer tell his own story.

“[People] spend their lives telling a story, and when they pass, they no longer get to tell that story,” Warren said. “It’s up to the people around them to tell that story for them. Although we can tell that story in our own unique ways and how Vic has affected all of us, nobody can tell it as beautifully as him. I’m asking for justice for my friend. I’m asking for some sort of peace for his family.”

To provide information about the suspects, contact authorities at the Homicide Special Section at 213-486-6890. To leave anonymous tips, call 213-486-6890 or go to