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USC student was with friends when robbers demanded money and killed him, police say

USC student was with friends when robbers demanded money and killed him, police say
USC student Victor McElhaney, 21, was fatally shot Sunday morning near Maple Avenue and Adams Boulevard. (KTLA)

Victor McElhaney was with friends at a liquor store Sunday morning when they were confronted by a group of armed robbers, police said Monday.

The USC student, who was studying at the Thornton School of Music, had just exited the store when the suspect approached the group of nine friends. The robbers demanded cash and other valuables, and detectives believe McElhaney objected, Los Angeles Police Capt. Billy Hayes said.

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The suspects fatally shot McElhaney and fled in a car, Hayes said. No one else was hit by gunfire.

The shooting occurred at Maple Avenue and Adams Boulevard, about a mile and a half from the campus near strip malls where students sometimes get food when eateries close to campus are closed.

The intersection is a short drive from the north side of campus. The Times’ Crime L.A. database didn’t show other robberies in that immediate neighborhood in the last few weeks. But there had been some in the general area.

Lee Sands, an LAPD captain who oversees the department’s Southwest Division, which encompasses USC, said the shooting was beyond the university Police Department’s traditional boundary areas.

USC has built a safety net of security cameras, license plates readers on poles and even mobile sentry posts that extend into the neighborhoods beyond the campus. It was a license plate reader on a pole that allowed LAPD homicide detectives to identify the killers of two students a few years ago.

Oakland Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney confirmed in a statement Sunday night that the 21-year-old was her son.

“I miss my baby. Please keep me, my family, and all of my son’s friends in your thoughts and prayers,” she said. “We are beginning a new chapter in this reoccurring circle of violence.… And it will take all of us together to make it through this tragedy.”

McElhaney transferred from Cal State East Bay in fall 2017, according to USC Annenberg Media. The jazz studies major was an active member of USC’s Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs.

Before moving to Los Angeles, McElhaney was an instructor at Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, Annenberg Media reported.

McElhaney was an extraordinarily talented drummer, said USC jazz professor Peter Erskine, who gave the young man private lessons for a year.

“He was a bright light,” Erskine said, describing McElhaney as quiet and dignified. “He was someone I was expecting to hear a lot of music from in the future. I’m so sad that his voice has been silenced.”

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