LOS ANGELES, Calif.–Two men charged in the shooting deaths of two USC graduate students from China during a botched robbery pleaded not guilty today to capital murder.
Bryan Barnes, 20, and Javier Bolden, 19, are charged with the April 11 killings of Ming Qu and Ying Wu, both 23. The electrical engineering students were attacked while they sat in Qu’s double-parked 2003 BMW in the 2700 block of Raymond Avenue, not far from the USC campus, during a downpour.
Wu was found in the passenger seat, and Qu, who apparently tried to run for help, was found on the steps of a nearby home.
The murder charges include the special circumstance allegations of multiple murders and murder during the commission of a robbery. Prosecutors will decide closer to trial whether to seek the death penalty against the two.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba today ordered Barnes and Bolden–who were arrested May 18–to remain jailed without bail. At one point during the hearing, the judge had to pause and chastise the defendants, who were smiling and talking to each other in the courtroom holding area.
They are due back at the downtown courthouse Sept. 20, when a date is scheduled to be set for a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require them to stand trial.
Along with the murders, the two are charged with the attempted murder of a 20-year-old man during a party in South Los Angeles Dec. 3.
Barnes is also charged with an additional count of attempted murder and assault with a semiautomatic firearm for allegedly opening fire during another South Los Angeles party on Feb. 12, injuring two people.
Police said shell casings tied both men to the USC shootings and the earlier shootings.
The parents of the slain students filed a wrongful death lawsuit that claims USC “actively solicits international students particularly from China for its graduate studies program for which it receives a substantial sum of money from tuition to help fund the university.”
The lawsuit says USC’s website calls the university “among the safest of U.S. universities and colleges, with one of the most comprehensive, proactive campus and community safety programs in the nation.”
USC attorney Debra Wong Yang called the shooting a tragedy, but said there were no grounds for the lawsuit.
A friend of Wu and Qu told reporters outside the courtroom that she had some sympathy for the defendants’ families.
“I saw those two guys’ family, a mom and maybe sisters or brothers,” Julia Liu said. “… I also feel sad for them ’cause they also kind of lost their son. … It’s going to be sad for four families.”