USC Halloween party goes critically wrong
LOS ANGELES — Violence that sometimes borders the University of Southern California crept onto campus when an argument outside a Halloween party escalated to a shooting that critically wounded one man and injured three other people and led administrators Thursday to reassess policies of the school near high-crime neighborhoods.
Neither the victims nor the two men detained were USC students, but the shooting reinforced concerns that the campus’ location near downtown Los Angeles presents risks on and off campus.
The shooting comes after security was strengthened following the April slayings of two Chinese graduate students about a mile from the school.
As students returned to class Thursday after the campus was shut down for three hours, school officials said they are reviewing policies regarding visitors and events but stressed that the chances of a shooting at USC are rare.
“While the risk of such an episode on campus is very low, it reminds all of us that we must look out for ourselves and be particularly vigilant about the personal safety of friends and guests at our social events,” USC President C.L. Max Nikias said.
Two men were detained and were being questioned about the shooting that happened outside the “Freak or Greek” party held by the Black Student Assembly.
One man was critically injured, and three bystanders were treated for minor injuries and released.
None of those shot or detained were students at the university, said USC police Capt. David Carlisle.
Geno Hall, a former Los Angeles prep football star, was shot seven times and is expected to live, his father, Eugene Hall told the Los Angeles Times.
Hall is playing football at West Los Angeles community college, and his goal was to transfer to a university, his father said.
The men were in a line of more than 100 people waiting to get into the party when they began arguing and one man pulled a gun and opened fire, Carlisle said.
Journalism graduate student Matt Hamilton, 25, said he and a group of friends were standing about 25 feet away when at least four gunshots rang out in rapid succession.
“And then mayhem erupted,” Hamilton said. “People ran away in all directions. I tried to hide behind a building, and some people just dropped down.”
USC officials said campus police officers saw the shooting and caught the two men as they ran away.
A gun was found near the shooting scene and will be tested to see if it was the weapon used, police said.
Michael L. Jackson, vice president for student affairs, said university policy requires that on-campus student parties be open only to “guests with student IDs from USC or another university.”
Students arrange the parties and the events become well-known quickly on social media sites, so unauthorized guests may have been in line, Carlisle said.
USC students were admitted free, while those with a valid ID from another college had to pay.
Costumed guests and fraternity and sorority members got a discount. A flier for the party noted there shouldn’t be any worries because there would be campus police as well as “strict off-duty officers.”
Brock Malinowski, a chemical engineering student, said he often studies on campus late at night and believes USC provides good security for its students.
“Last night was the very first time where I walked out and I got a feeling that I needed to get off campus very fast,” he said. “USC’s a great school. I’ve wanted to come here since I was like 9 years old. This doesn’t change my opinion of it.”
The Halloween shooting follows two others this year that happened near the campus, which is a few miles south of downtown in an area historically burdened by high crime.
However, police said crime around USC is down 19 percent so far this year.
Ming Qu of Jilin and Ying Wu of Hunan, both 23, were killed April 11 as they sat in their car on a rainy night.
Two men were arrested in what police said was a robbery, and they have pleaded not guilty to murder charges.
A week later, on April 18, Jeremy Hendricks was shot in the leg by a USC security officer after he allegedly robbed four students at gunpoint late at night.
Hendricks, 24, pleaded no contest in September to two counts of robbery and one count of assault with a semiautomatic weapon.
He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
After the two incidents, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck pledged to make USC the safest urban university in the country.
He said he would add more than 30 officers to the division that patrols the USC vicinity and use computer-aided models to help predict crime areas.
Many USC students are aware of their surroundings and the potential of crime.
Some believe it’s difficult to try to control who enters school grounds for events even if the events are supposed to be just for college students.
“I don’t think you want to make a police state of your campus,” Hamilton said. Wednesday’s shooting “does seem like an aberration.”