US teens charged with murder of Chinese student
Los Angeles - Four US teens were charged on Tuesday with murder in the fatal beating of a Chinese graduate student with a baseball bat and wrench as he walked to his apartment.
Two of the suspects, ages 16 and 17, were juveniles charged as adults in the slaying of Xinran Ji, aged 24, an engineering student at the University of Southern California who was attacked early on Thursday. He was able to make his way to his apartment. A roommate discovered him dead hours later.
The defendants, 17-year-old Alberto Ochoa, 16-year-old Alejandra Guerrero, 18-year-old Andrew Garcia and 19-year-old Jonathan Del Carmen will be arraigned on 12 August on one count each of murder with a special circumstance of murder in the course of an attempted robbery, prosecutors said.
Garcia, Ochoa and Guerrero will also face a special allegation that they personally used a dangerous weapon, the bat and wrench.
In 2012, two USC students from China were fatally shot during an off-campus robbery also during the early morning.
"For any family this is a horrible tragedy, but it's magnified by the fact that these Chinese families have sent their children so far away expecting that this was the best possible thing, and now he's gone", Clayton Dube, executive director of the USC US-China Institute, said about Ji.
Dube, who informed Ji's mother of her only child's death, said the university and the US and Chinese governments were working to get Ji's parents to Los Angeles from Hohhot, the capital city of Inner Mongolia in northern China.
Ji's parents, Ji Songbo and Du Jinhui, said in a statement on Tuesday that they are struggling to get visas.
They also said they are "deeply concerned" about students at the university, especially those from China.
"We hope that USC can enhance security and guarantee the safety of USC students", they said. The statement mentioned the two Chinese students killed in 2012 and urged the school to learn from those deaths and Ji's.
"We do not want to see another incident like this", they said. "No parents should have to bear this pain."
Ji had just escorted a study partner home when he was attacked, Dube said.
China's consulate general in Los Angeles called Ji's death cruel and said it was concerned about student safety.
Students were reminded to take extra security precautions and representatives reached out to US authorities to take measures to ensure the safety of Chinese students, according to a statement from the consulate.
Meanwhile, Chinese students traded messages of sadness and shock and a Taiwanese student association sent out a long message with security tips.
USC has the highest number of international students in the country, with more than 40% of them coming from China.
Garcia, Ochoa and Guerrero were also charged with one count each of second-degree robbery, attempted second-degree robbery and assault with a deadly weapon in another incident the same morning. Ocho and Guerrero were armed with a knife and bat in that incident, the complaint states.
Police believe the attackers drove to Dockweiler Beach after from the USC area and tried to rob a man and woman. The man escaped and notified police.
If convicted, Garcia and Del Carmen could face the death penalty for Ji's death. Ochoa and Guerrero can only face up to life in prison without possibility of parole because of their ages. All four are being held without bail.