LOS ANGELES (AP) — A gunman opened fire on a BMW near the University of Southern California campus on Wednesday, killing two international students from China in what may have been a bungled carjacking attempt, police said.
The couple was sitting in the new 3-series luxury car when the gunman fired around 1 a.m., shattering the car windows. The woman was slumped in the front passenger seat.
The wounded man managed to get out of the car and run to a nearby home, where he pounded on the door pleading for help and someone called 911, police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said. It wasn't known if anyone answered the door before the man collapsed.
Paramedics took the victims to downtown's California Hospital Medical Center where they were dead on arrival, authorities said.
"This is every parent's nightmare," Smith said.
Investigators say it may have been a robbery or a carjacking attempt. Witnesses said the car was in the roadway, not at the curb, at the time of the shooting.
The gunman fled and no one has been arrested, Smith said. Police have taken the $60,000 BMW away for examination and were attempting to determine if there were any surveillance cameras in the area.
The names of the 20-year-old woman and the man, who was also in his 20s, were being withheld until families are notified.
Four people have been killed this year in the area, police said, but violent crime is down 20 percent this year.
Gloria Tigolo lives on the street where the shooting occurred and said she heard a single gunshot. She went downstairs but didn't go outside because it was raining. "It was just one big shot," she said. "I am amazed that one gunshot could kill two people."
Investigators said earlier that several shots were fired at the couple.
Tigolo said the area is peaceful and this is the first shooting she can recall since she moved to the neighborhood three years ago.
Chinese college students have helped fuel record international student enrollment on U.S. campuses in recent years. Students from China represent nearly one-fourth of the nearly 724,000 international students attending colleges and universities in this country.
At USC, nearly 35 percent, or 2,513, of the school's 7,226 international students are Chinese, according to the university's 2011 figures. The school, with 38,000 students total, has the largest number of international students of any U.S. university.
In addition to those from China, 17.5 percent of the international students are from India, 10 percent from South Korea, 5.5 percent from Taiwan, 4.4 percent from Canada, 2.3 percent from Iran and just above 2 percent each from Hong Kong and Indonesia.
The types of students who come from abroad to attend U.S. universities and colleges typically skew wealthier because they have to be able to afford a school's tuition without financial aid. With China's economic boom, more families can now afford to send their children overseas.
Amy Cho and Ingyo Hwang, both international students from Korea, said they were saddened to hear about the deaths. Both women said they hadn't heard from their parents because of the time difference, but they do expect to hear from them.
"If they know about it they would be worried," said Cho, who is studying business.
Hwang, who is studying piano, said she's often at the campus late at night and she like other international students are scared because the school is located in a gritty part of Los Angeles.
"A lot of people are going to be talking about the shooting because they were international students," said Hwang, who moved from Baltimore to be in a safer area.
Students Kenny Liu, who is Chinese-American and lives nine blocks from where the shooting occurred, said the area is unsafe and that it's also not uncommon to see BMWs and other expensive cars parked near the campus.
"If I owned a BMW, I wouldn't drive it here," he said.
USC is in an urban center not far from gang-infested neighborhoods. But gentrification has begun in the West Adams district.
Beatriz Moreno, who lives across the street with her family from where the shooting occurred, said the neighborhood has been cleaned up. The last shooting she could recall was in 2003.
"We used to see this every day," Moreno said. "There are mostly families here. This is not normal."