Hundreds gather to remember slain USC student and musician Victor McElhaney

Easweh Harrison, 23, right, embraces a fellow member of Brothers Breaking BREAD, a student organization founded by black men at USC, during a memorial for slain USC Thornton School of Music student Victor McElhaney at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center Ballroom on campus.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Slain 21-year-old USC student Victor McElhaney was remembered at a memorial Tuesday night for his kind heart and passion for music.

An estimated 700 people attended the memorial, which was standing room only, at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center Ballroom on the USC campus.

“Vic impacted a lot of people,” said Marcus Burke, 23, of Los Angeles. “Every time I saw him, he was in a space helping people by conversation. He was always one to engage in a very thought-provoking and nuanced way, and he helped people see life in a way that brought people together.”

Among his many activities, McElhaney was a member of campus support group Brothers Breaking BREAD, a student organization founded by black men at USC. Many of the group’s members wore custom T-shirts with a large “V” on the back in remembrance of McElhaney.

The memorial included spoken word and musical performances, including a jazz performance with no drummer, an intentional choice representing McElhaney, who was an accomplished drummer and musician.


“As sad as a day it is, you can only revel in the power that he had because so many people came out [and] filled this entire space with people that loved him,” said Easweh Harrison, a 23-year-old USC alumnus living in L.A.

McElhaney was shot about a mile and a half from campus about 12:30 a.m. March 10 outside a strip-mall liquor store. A group of three or four men attempted to mug him and his friends, and one of the men shot McElhaney. The LAPD has not announced any arrests in the case.

Victor McElhaney, 21, was shot and killed a mile and a half from USC on March 10. McElhaney was a talented drummer and Oakland native.
(Photos courtesy of McElhaney family)

McElhaney attended Cal State East Bay before transferring to USC in the fall of 2017, where he was a jazz studies student at USC’s Thornton School of Music. He was an active member of the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs.

He was the son of Oakland City Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who has used her position to speak out against gun violence in Oakland, helping pass Measure Z, a public safety measure that finances investments in community policing and violent crime prevention.

He was his mother’s biggest cheerleader in her efforts to end gun violence.

McElhaney’s family lost another loved one, 17-year-old Torian Hughes, to gun violence in 2015. Torian, whom McElhaney’s parents helped raise, was shot and killed during a robbery in West Oakland.

The death broke McElhaney’s heart, friends said, and he would often initiate conversations about gun violence in person and on social media.

“Thank you for everybody that’s here,” his father, Clarence McElhaney, said at the memorial. “I didn’t know how to get through this week, but this is at least a start.”

Times staff writers Laura Newberry and Jaclyn Cosgrove contributed to this report.