Brianna Kupfer murder: COVID-19 backlog delayed Shawn Laval Smith's trial over Charleston flare gun attack

Suspect in UCLA grad student’s murder arrested

Fox News chief correspondent Jonathan Hunt reports on new developments in Brianna Kupfer’s case.

Shawn Laval Smith, the man accused of stabbing UCLA grad student Brianna Kupfer to death in a “random act” last week in Los Angeles, has a pending felony case in South Carolina for allegedly shooting a flare gun into an occupied car – with a toddler inside.

But despite allegedly admitting to the crime in a conversation with a Mount Pleasant detective, he hasn’t had his day in court in that case due to a 1,330-case COVID-19 backlog in the county, according to a court clerk and records.

“The Kupfer case is such a sad and unnecessary tragedy,” Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor who lives in LA, told Fox News Digital Wednesday. “Like [Darrell] Brooks in Wisconsin, if prosecutors had done their job, innocent people may be alive today.” 

Aerial images obtained by FOX 11 Los Angeles show police putting him into the back of a police SUV ahead of his expected transfer to LAPD custody.  
(FOX 11)

Smith has been out for years on $50,000 bond, of which he paid less than the standard 10%, according to the bail bondsman, who declined to give a specific figure. 

At 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 10, 2019, Smith pulled his 2006 Pontiac G6 up alongside Anthony Jayubo’s 2008 Mercedes near the intersection of Highway 17 and Indigo Market Drive in the town of Mount Pleasant, court documents show.

Jayubo had his toddler son in the back seat.

Smith allegedly fired a flare gun at the back window – which police said had “contact and burn marks,” but it does not appear that the child was injured. Police charged him with discharging a firearm at an occupied vehicle, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Shawn Laval Smith had a lengthy rap sheet that included charges in the Carolinas and California.
(Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images   )

Court records show no activity on the case between March 2020 and Wednesday, when prosecutors moved for a bond revocation.

The Ninth Circuit Solicitor’s Office in South Carolina did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

With that case pending, Smith also racked up charges in California before police in Pasadena arrested him Wednesday in connection with Kupfer’s stabbing death.

He was busted Oct. 27, 2020, outside Home Depot allegedly in possession of stolen property. He was issued a citation and ordered to appear in court but the office of the prior Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey declined to prosecute, Covina Police Department spokesman Sgt. Joshua Turner told Fox News Digital.

And last June, he was given a plea deal that reduced three felony charges involving an attack on a police officer to a single count of resisting arrest. A judge sentenced him to probation – but revoked it at the end of November when he failed to uphold his end of the deal. 

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    Pasadena police arrested Brianna Kupfer’s alleged killer Wednesday just a day after Los Angeles authorities released his identity. (LinkedIn)

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    Shawn Laval Smith, 31, is suspected of stabbing to death the 24-year-old UCLA graduate student during her shift at upscale furniture store Croft House in a random daylight attack (Courtesy of Todd Kupfer)

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    Kupfer worked at Croft House, a luxury furniture store in Los Angeles. (Todd Kupfer)

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    The 24-year-old was studying design as a grad student at UCLA. (Todd Kupfer)

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    Smith allegedly walked into the North La Brea Avenue shop on Jan. 13 and stabbed Kupfer to death moments after she sent a message to a friend saying a man in the store was making her uncomfortable. (Courtesy of Todd Kupfer)

He had an active warrant in that case at the time of Kupfer’s slaying last week.

“Bail reform and COVID delays claim another innocent victim,” Rahmani said. “Gascon has been largely criticized for the increase in violent crime in Los Angeles. It’s time he stops acting like a defense attorney and allows proescutors to charge violent felons with sentencing enhancements.

George Gascon, the progressive Los Angeles district attorney, has raised the ire of law enforcement and his own assistant DAs for his allegedly soft-on-crime policies.

Homicides are up more than 60% in the City of Los Angeles and over 90% in Los Angeles County, according to records from the LAPD and sheriff’s office.

Eric Siddall, the vice president of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, excoriated Gascon in an essay published to the union’s website this week.

“Despite evidence that criminals are exploiting Gascón’s zero-bail policy, he refuses to ensure dangerous offenders are held accountable for crimes committed while they are out on zero-bail,” he wrote. “They are only held accountable when the situation escalates – that is, once they shoot or kill someone.”

Gascon’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the criticism from his deputies.

Fox News’ Lee Ross contributed to this report.

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