L.A. police identify suspect, offer $250,000 reward in fatal stabbing of store employee
Los Angeles police on Tuesday identified a suspect in last week’s fatal stabbing of a Hancock Park furniture store employee and announced a $250,000 reward for information leading to his arrest and prosecution.
Brianna Kupfer, 24, was working alone inside the Croft House store on La Brea Avenue on Thursday when she was attacked. Police identified 31-year-old Shawn Laval Smith as the suspect and said they believe he was not known to Kupfer. A motive was not clear.
Smith has been in Pasadena, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and other locations around Southern California, police said, and is believed to be homeless and using public transportation.
Smith was arrested in October 2020 on a misdemeanor in the city of Covina. In 2016, he was arrested in Charleston County in South Carolina, where he was charged with resisting or assaulting a police officer, according to court records. Smith was marked for extradition in North Carolina on charges of assault with a deadly weapon, carrying a concealed weapon and other crimes.
Earlier Tuesday, L.A. Police Chief Michel Moore said the suspect was seen walking into multiple businesses along La Brea Avenue and the Beverly Boulevard corridor on the day of the stabbing.
“This individual responsible for this vicious, senseless and brutal crime walks amongst us,” he said during a news conference.
The LAPD released video Tuesday showing the suspect inside a nearby 7-Eleven store about 30 minutes after the killing. He was described as a tall, thin Black man with braided hair, who was last seen wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, dark pants, black tennis shoes, a white mask and a large, black backpack.
Anyone with information is asked to call West Bureau homicide investigators at (213) 382-9470. Anonymous tips can be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
About 1:36 p.m. Thursday, Kupfer sent a text message to a friend saying she was feeling uneasy about a person in the Croft House furniture store on La Brea where she was working alone, according to the LAPD.
The friend did not immediately respond to her message.
About 1:50 p.m., a customer found her on the floor covered in blood. She was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the LAPD.
Kupfer’s death has “shaken and shocked our community to its core,” said Councilman Paul Koretz, who made a motion for the city to offer a $50,000 reward, which was increased to $250,000 by contributions from the community.
Moore said he sympathized with Kupfer’s family.
“As a father, as a police professional, as just a human being — the unimaginable pain that they must be going through losing a 24-year-old daughter, who had a bright and optimistic future and every promise of those brighter days,” Moore said.
Kupfer was a bright light wherever she went, her father, Todd Kupfer, said when reached by phone.
“But her candle got snuffed out way too young,” he said.
Todd Kupfer said he hoped the reward would help lead to the arrest of the person who killed his daughter.
“She loved to dance. She was good at socializing when it was her environment. She loved to laugh,” he said.
Kupfer was one of four children, all of who grew up in Los Angeles, her father said. She ran track and was on the dance team at Brentwood High School before she went to the University of Miami.
She was taking online online courses for a degree in architecture and design at UCLA, Todd Kupfer said.
“She loved geometrical patterns, she loved design and drawing,” he said.
Kupfer started working at Croft House because it was a sustainable furniture company and she was passionate about such causes, her father said.
The Kupfer family plans to create a foundation to honor her memory, but Todd Kupfer doesn’t know what shape it will take.
“It’s just so heart wrenching,” Todd Kupfer said. “It’s torn us apart. We really don’t know what to do and what steps to take. We just want her life to have more meaning.”
Since Kupfer’s death, friends have approached her father to express how much love she brought to their lives.
Just before the pandemic, the father and daughter took a trip to Northern California to pick up a dog, a silver Labrador they named Remi. This past Christmas, Todd Kupfer’s four children got their parents a blanket with Remi’s picture.
“This Christmas, I was telling everyone how great it was that we were so close as a family,” Todd Kupfer said. “It was at a point now, where everyone was happy and knew where they wanted to go. Brianna was the star of that group.”
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