Man convicted of attempted murders in USC Halloween party shooting
A man accused of opening fire on a rival gang member in the first shooting on the USC campus in decades was convicted Monday of four counts of attempted murder.
Prosecutors argued that Brandon Spencer, 21, was seeking retaliation for his own gunshot wound -- suffered a year earlier -- when he shot at Geno Hall in October 2012. The shooting escalated from feuding on Twitter with Hall, the City Section high school football player of the year in 2009. On Halloween night, among a crowd waiting to enter a party, Spencer shot six times in Hall’s direction with a black revolver.
Hall suffered four wounds, and three other men were injured by the gunfire that spread from Downey Way across Trousdale Parkway, the campus’s main corridor.
Hall, 22, still has a bullet lodged in his pelvis area and suffers from back pain, he testified. One of the other victims suffered a torn Achilles, another had a fractured rib and damage to his lung, and another was shot in the foot.
A line of more than 100 people waiting to enter the party scattered, and one campus police officer fell off his scooter in the chaos. Spencer tried to flee and ditch his shirt, according to police. He was found near a university parking lot half a mile away from shooting scene. Police found a revolver in the parking lot three hours after the shooting.
During the trial, a USC campus police officer testified that he saw Spencer lift the gun out of his waistband and that he sized up the shooter as the shots rang out. The USC officer noted Spencer’s height, the wording on his shirt, the way he wore a cap and the shades of his skin and his jeans compared with those of other possible suspects who were detained.
Officers found several pictures on Spencer’s phone of guns, including black revolvers. Investigators also found a Twitter post that mentioned a “gangsters and strippers party,” where, Spencer said, he would “show” a rival gang not to confront him.
Spencer’s attorney, John Blanchard, had argued that the witness testimony was shaky because so many people that night had been wearing similar red-sleeved clothing. DNA found on the gun was only a partial match, Blanchard said, and he raised the possibility of a second shooter.
Hall also refused to point a finger at Spencer when testifying and said he didn’t remember the Twitter conversation. The prosecutor said it was common for gang members to not want to snitch.
At closing arguments, Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Antonella Nistorescu likened her counterpart’s arguments to nitpicking.
“Three witnesses identified the elephant in the room, but the defense wants you to know that at least one of them might not have noticed the small cat,” she told the jury. “There’s no coincidences here. It’s logic.”
Spencer could face life in prison. His father, who watched nearly every minute of the 2 1/2-week trial, lamented the verdict to reporters afterward.
Blanchard said he plans to appeal.
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