Jurors see video of USC slaying suspect boasting about the crime

Javier Bolden, right, sits with his defense attorney, Andrew Goldman, during his trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Javier Bolden, right, sits with his defense attorney, Andrew Goldman, during his trial in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

Within hours of arriving in jail, Javier Bolden began to brag to a cellmate that he had shot a man during a fight in South L.A.

“Boom, popped him,” Bolden said.


Grad student killings: In the Oct. 17 LATExtra section, a story about the trial of a man accused of killing of two USC graduate students identified the victims as Wanzhi Qu and Xiyong Wu. The victims were Ming Qu and Ying Wu. —
He then told his cellmate that a couple of months later he and a friend opened fire while robbing two graduate students near USC, killing both victims in a crime that made international headlines.

What Bolden didn’t realize was that he was boasting to a police informant who had been supplied with a video camera to capture everything Bolden told him.


On Thursday, a prosecutor played the video of the jail cell encounter for a downtown Los Angeles jury weighing murder charges against Bolden in a crime that shocked USC and raised questions about campus safety.

“This is a case about senseless street violence,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan Akemon told jurors during opening statements.

Bolden, 22, is charged with two counts of murder in the April 11, 2012, killing of Ming Qu and Ying Wu, 23-year-old engineering students from China. He is also charged with attempted murder and assault with a firearm in a shooting two months earlier outside a banquet hall in the city’s Vermont Square neighborhood.

On the secret recording in jail, Bolden told the informant that he and his friend had sneaked up on opposite sides of a parked BMW, which they planned to steal. When the people inside the car wouldn’t open the door, his friend shot them.

“Boom, boom, and then that was it,” he said, adding that he also opened fire.

For some reason, the bullets from Bolden’s gun didn’t shatter the glass, he told the man, breaking into a rolling laugh.

The informant asked what they’d done with the guns. “Sold ‘em,” Bolden said calmly.

In the courtroom, Bolden stared at the screen and tapped a pencil on the table as he watched the video.

Bolden’s attorney, Andrew Goldman, said that his client lied about being involved in the killings in a show of “jail bravado.” Bolden, he said, would have admitted to the Boston Marathon bombing to impress the informant, who told Bolden he was arrested on murder charges.

“Mr. Bolden is just making things up to look tough,” Goldman said.

Akemon agreed that Bolden embellished his account to the informant. The prosecutor said the evidence showed that his accomplice fired all the shots at the scene of the USC students’ slaying. But Akemon also showed jurors a clip of a 1 1/2 -hour-long police interview that he described as a confession by Bolden.

In the interview, Bolden admitted that he and a friend targeted USC to find well-off victims.

Goldman told the jury that his client denied involvement in both shootings for about an hour until one of the detectives mentioned he could face the death penalty.

“Mr. Bolden tells them what they want to hear,” Goldman said, adding that the confession was made under duress.

In a phone call police recorded before his arrest, Bolden bragged to an unidentified woman about the first shooting.

Bolden’s friend, Bryan Barnes, pleaded guilty in February to two counts of first-degree murder in the USC shooting. As part of the plea, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty. He is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Twitter: @marisagerber