Students at the University of Southern California (USC), including many from China, expressed shock and sadness over the fatal shooting of one of their alumni near campus on Sunday, stoking their concerns about campus safety.
Victor McElhaney, a senior at USC's Thornton School of Music, was shot and killed in the early hours of Sunday on a street about one and a half mile from the campus. Los Angeles Police Department said Monday that the killing appeared to be a random robbery and detectives were on the hunt for murderers.
McElhaney, 21, is the son of Lynette Gibson McElhaney, a councilwoman of the Oakland City in California. She had described gun violence as "unnatural but imminently fixable" after the slaying of a teenager in 2015.
The tragedy occurred less than two days after the last of four defendants in the murder of a USC Chinese student in 2014 was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Ji Xinran, a Chinese graduate student in electrical engineering at the USC, was beaten to death by a group of young robbers near the university campus on July 24, 2014, sending shock waves through Chinese students at the USC and Chinese community in the United States as a whole. USC officials stepped up campus security following the killing of Ji, including deploying more "security ambassadors" wearing easily spottable yellow jackets in campus neighborhoods.
"I am stunned and sorry to hear the latest incident. We, Chinese students studying in the United States, ought to be more careful," said Ling Luo, a graduate student at the USC, adding that she seldom goes out alone after dark.
"I will call for a ride or campus cruiser directly if I have to go out," she told Xinhua via WeChat, China's most popular messaging app.
"USC has taken many measures and spent a lot to improve campus security, but the university is in an area facing complex security challenges," she added.
The USC is a leading private research university located in an area south of downtown Los Angeles. A total of 47,500 students were enrolled in the 2018-2019 academic year, including more than 5,600 from the Chinese mainland, accounting for about half of the USC's international enrollment, according to the University's Office of International Services.
"We strive to maintain high standards with respect to the safety and security of our campuses and residence areas. We are fortunate that our university is located in a large and dynamic urban community," wrote Wanda Austin, USC's Interim President, in the university's 2018 Annual Security &Fire Safety Report.
But she admitted that "we also are aware that such an environment brings unique challenges."
In the six-month period ending Jan. 20, 93 violent crimes were recorded in University Park, giving the neighborhood a higher rate of violent crime than in downtown Los Angeles during the same time period, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing city data.
USC Annenberg Media, a student-run news organization, provided timely coverage on the fatal shooting and its report has been read more than 18,000 times by viewers on its Chinese-language WeChat official account. The majority of the viewers for this WeChat official account are Chinese students at USC. It's the first article posted on the account that racked up more than 10,000 views.
Many viewers shared their sadness and shock in the comments.
"I am too frightened to go out," wrote a viewer, Grace, while another viewer, Xiao Ting, noted that the scene of the shooting is to the campus.
"We have to keep in mind safety as we are alone in another country," wrote a saddened viewer, Chris.
"Some of my friends will not tell their family in China this kind of bad news to spare them the worry. I like to tell my parents those incidents around the campus, but I never share them with aging family members, such as my grandpa and grandma," Coco Huang, a student with USC Annenberg School, told Xinhua.
"Campus safety has long been a hot topic for USC students. It's one of the key factors for Chinese students to rent rooms nearby. The rooms in the security ambassadors' range are always preferred," she said. Enditem