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2 charged in slaying of USC graduate students

May 22, 2012 | 11:52 am

Slain USC graduate students

Two men were charged Tuesday in the slaying of two USC graduate students from China in what officials are calling a botched robbery.

Both face capital murder charges that could result in the death penalty. They are scheduled to appear in court later today.

The cellphone of one of the grad students slain last month helped lead police to their alleged killers, law enforcement sources told The Times.

Bryan Barnes, 20, of Los Angeles and Javier Bolden, 19, also face charges in an Dec. 3, 2011 attempted murder at a South L.A. party. Shell casing from that shooting were connected to the USC student shootings, according to prosecutors. Barnes also faces a third count of attempted murder in connection with a shooting at another party in February.

Barnes was taken into custody Friday afternoon by a team of LAPD SWAT officers, along with FBI and other federal agents, who raided an apartment near the USC campus.

Bolden was arrested by the same team three hours later in Victorville and flown back to L.A. by helicopter.

Police sources, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation, said Barnes was the suspected gunman in the April 11 slaying of electronic engineering students Ming Qu and Ying Wu, both 23.

Bolden was believed to have been present when the students were gunned down during a robbery while sitting in Qu's parked BMW in the 2700 block of Raymond Avenue, the sources said.

The suspects were being held without bail and were expected to be booked on suspicion of murder late Friday. They are scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.

Ballistics tests on shell casings recovered at the scene of the shooting show they were fired from the same gun used in two other shootings, police sources said.

Detectives working on the two previous shootings had followed some "very tenuous" leads that they believed tied the earlier incidents to the primary suspect in the USC case, a police source said.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Friday praised detectives for their work.

Villaraigosa portrayed the arrests as a sign of how seriously the city takes public safety and sought to reassure an international audience, in Spanish and English, that Los Angeles is not a dangerous destination.

"Safety is priority No. 1 in this city," he said. "Students at our city's universities should feel safe in and around our campuses."

The mayor, the father of a college-age daughter, said his heart went out to the Chinese students' parents.


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— Richard Winton and Rosanna Xia

Photo: USC President C.L. Max Nikias bows before images of Ying Wu and Ming Qu before eulogizing the students at a memorial service last month. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times