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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

USC Remembers Killed Graduate Students

Gracie Zheng, Subrina Hudson |
April 18, 2012 | 11:07 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporters


Ying Wu (left) and Ming Qu (right), who were killed by a gunman near USC last week. (Gracie Zheng)
Ying Wu (left) and Ming Qu (right), who were killed by a gunman near USC last week. (Gracie Zheng)
A memorial was held at the Shrine Auditorium Wednesday evening to remember Ying Wu and Ming Qu, both electrical engineering graduates at USC, who were shot dead near campus last week.

A string quartet of students from USC’s Thornton School of Music played next to a large display showing Wu and Qu’s photos.

This was the seventh day after their death, or “touqi” in Chinese, which in Chinese culture is the day the souls of the deceased return home.

Seized by grief, the victims' mothers were helped to walk to their seats. The parents burst into tears at a photo slideshow of Wu and Qu at a musical interlude--them having fun with friends at the beach, hiking, posing for the camera with a birthday cake, and making dumplings.

Jing Ye, a close friend of Wu, remembered the time they spent together, working out at the Lyon Center, buying strawberries for dinner and studying at Leavey library.

Ye said Wu used to buy a lot of snacks and coffee when they had to stay up for homework. 

“It’s an honor to become your friend,” she said. “You’re such a nice person.”

“Last time I had a fever, you came to visit me with my favorite sweet potato porridge.” 

Ye said Wu was quite excited after she bought plane tickets to fly back home on May 14th as she planned to attend her friend’s wedding for the first time, to visit Potala Palace in Tibet, and to cook Chinese dishes for her parents for the first time, which she didn’t have a chance to do when she was in China.

As Ye carefully stepped off the stage, Biao Yang walked up to the podium. Yang was Ming Qu’s best friend for six years and they were both graduate students at USC. He said he could not believe Qu was dead when the police arrived at the apartment they shared.

“I was waiting and expecting you at home all day,” said Yang. “Just the day before, we cooked together. We went home together.”

Yang recounted stories of their time at Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.The two of them would study for the GRE inside one of the buildings, borrowing the teacher’s chairs so they could continue studying after the building closed at midnight.

Yang said Qu’s parents couldn’t help crying when they visited his apartment. They were sorry they couldn’t make enough money to provide him a better place to stay.

“You always said we should save the money that was earned by our parents’ hard work,” said Yang.

The sound of crying from members in the audience grew as Yang made a promise to Qu.

“Do not worry. We will take care of your parents. We will complete your goals that you were not able to achieve,” said Yang.

Few leads in investigation 

Early morning on Wednesday, April 11, two USC students, Ying Wu and Ming Qu, both 23, were sitting in their car in the West Adams district a few blocks from USC’s campus when the attacker approached the vehicle. Police said the incident may have been an attempted carjacking. When Qu resisted, the would-be carjacker shot both students. 

(Screenshot of ATVN Livestream of service)
(Screenshot of ATVN Livestream of service)

Qu escaped from the car to seek help, only to collapse on a nearby porch. They were found on the 27th block of Raymond Avenue by police before 2 a.m. They were taken to a hospital and pronounced dead. 

Police have been able to uncover few leads in the case so far. On Friday, the LAPD announced a $125,000 reward for anyone with information that leads to the killer’s capture. That amount has since been raised to $200,000.

The memorial comes on the news of a second shooting in as many weeks. At around 12:40 a.m., Wednesday, Compton resident Jeremy Hendricks, 24, was shot by a university police officer after robbing a group of students very close to the Shrine auditorium, just off campus, where the memorial service took place. The officer fired when Hendricks displayed a handgun. Hendricks was taken to a hospital with a gunshot wound in the leg, police said. The wound was not life threatening.  

Police are looking for any connection between Hendricks and last week’s murder. They are examining the handgun to see if there is any connection between it and the murder weapon.

The murder of the two electrical engineering graduate students set off a flurry of questions about the safety of the area around USC, which has seen a recent drop in crime, but according to police statistics is considerably more dangerous than many Los Angeles communities. 

Many international students live in the West Adams district. Students have taken issue with the characterization of USC’s neighborhood as dangerous. 

However, at a meeting this week, students raised concerns about the area, putting questions to university officials about what can be done to improve student safety. "Needless to say, this is a trying time for everyone," said Michael Jackson, vice president of student affairs, at that meeting. "It's never easy to call a family and say their son or daughter has died. We just get through it."

The two students were portrayed in the Chinese media and social media as being among “the second generation of the rich,” which offended some who spoke to Neon Tommy last week. Initial reports erroneously characterized their car as being worth $60,000, though the Los Angeles Times reported the students actually purchased the vehicle for about $10,000.

Overwhelming grief

Outside, after the memorial service, USC graduate student Leila Nazarian said the service was “beautifully done and heartfelt.”

Tyler Rizzo, an attendee at the memorial, said it was touching to hear people from the university, along with Wu and Qu’s close friends, speak.

Jacqueline Hamilton and her family was Wu’s host family and expressed the same sentiment regarding the memorial service. She said her family has been hosting international students for the past nine years and has never felt their safety being threatened.

Hamilton’s teenage daughter, Robyn Valentine, described Wu as a dedicated student who spent most of her time studying in the library.

Hamilton said there were no words to describe how she felt after hearing the news of Wu’s death. “I hope the evil person who did this doesn’t rob anyone else,” said Hamilton.

Sonia Moreno, Wu’s neighbor, came to the memorial with her children. She walked out of the Shrine crying.

“We always see her. She was a very nice girl,” she said. “She doesn’t have problems with anybody. She never makes a noise. We’ll miss her a lot.”

While the victims’ parents were escorted out immediately after the memorial and their close friends wouldn’t accept interviews from the media, a family friend of Qu who requested to be anonymous talked to the media voicing her resentment to some reports that say they were obnoxious rich kids.

“I’m asking the press to respect the dead and their family. Don’t distort the facts,” she said.

USC is going to establish a memorial scholarship fund in the name of Ying Wu and Ming Qu, according to C. L. Max Nikias, president of USC.

After the memorial, some donated money to the victims' parents through Chinese students organizations.

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