A group of teenagers who were arrested in a deadly attack on a USC graduate student as he walked home from a study group could be charged with murder and special circumstances, a crime that could potentially bring the death penalty, police said Monday.
Xinran Ji, a 24-year-old graduate student from China, was allegedly hit on the head Thursday night with a baseball bat by at least one of the suspects, according to two law enforcement sources. Police said the incident was one of at least two robberies the group attempted that day.
Detectives are probing whether other weapons were also used in the attack on Ji, the sources said. The suspects range in age from 16 to 19.
"He was literally beaten to death," said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith. "I don't know why a group of young people would go on a crime spree as terrible as this.”
The two adult suspects were identified by police as Jonathan DelCarmen, 19, and Andrew Garcia, 18. Both were arrested on suspicion of homicide, but Garcia faces additional allegations of assault with a deadly weapon and robbery.
Police said there were no indications the suspects were gang members or that the attack was racially motivated.
Two of the juveniles, a 17-year-old male and 16-year-old female, were also arrested on suspicion of murder, assault with a deadly weapon and robbery. Their names were not released by police.
Prosecutors were expected to file charges Tuesday, LAPD officials said. Smith said the murder charges would carry special circumstance allegations that would make the suspects eligible for the death penalty.
A fifth suspect, a 14-year-old girl, was also in custody regarding a second incident, which police described as a robbery that took place at Dockweiler Beach "a few hours" after Ji was beaten near the South L.A. campus about 12:45 a.m.
Two victims in the Dockweiler incident flagged down police, who detained two of the suspects at about 3 a.m., Smith said. Detectives then linked them to the earlier attack at USC.
Investigators are also trying to determine whether the suspects committed more crimes during Thursday night or early Friday morning, Smith said. Anyone with information about possible incidents were asked to contact police.