LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The parents of two Chinese graduate students slain near the University of Southern California last month have filed a wrongful death lawsuit accusing the school of misrepresenting the area as safe and failing to provide security patrols.
The 15-page lawsuit filed on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court comes just over a month after Ming Qu and Ying Wu, both 23, were fatally shot as they were sitting in a 2003 BMW car that had been double-parked.
The early morning shooting deaths on April 11 occurred in front of Wu’s rented home over half a dozen city blocks from the campus, sparking a debate over whether USC provides adequate security measures in neighborhoods adjacent to the Los Angeles campus where many students live.
The lawsuit said that USC provides security in some areas around the campus, but not where the shooting of the two students occurred.
“There’s no excuse for it. You can’t tell when you’re walking from one area to another. There’s no sign that says, ‘Safety zone ahead,’” said attorney Alan Newman, who represents both sets of parents.
Debra Wong Yang, an attorney for USC, said the school would seek to have the lawsuit dismissed.
“USC is deeply saddened by this tragic event, which was a random violent act not representative of the safety of USC or the neighborhood around campus,” she said.
The lawsuit accuses USC of actively recruiting international students, such as the two slain graduate students from China, who were studying electrical engineering.
The complaint quotes a USC website that calls the school one of the safest universities in the United States and also touts the fact that its public safety officers provide 24-hour security on campus as well as in surrounding neighborhoods.
The lawsuit further said that USC provided security in some adjacent streets that are called the “patrolled area,” while that the place where the students were killed was the “quick response area.”
“A ‘quick response’ is only helpful after the crime has been committed,” the lawsuit said. “There was no reason not to extend the same (patrol) security to the quick response area.”
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of damages.
Los Angeles police continue to seek any person responsible for the death of the two students, and the city and the university offered a combined $200,000 reward for information that would help solve the crime.
Police initially said that some unspecified property of the victims was taken, suggesting robbery might have been a factor.
USC had more than 7,200 international students enrolled in 2011, and the largest group was from China, the school’s website said. The school charges those students over $30,000 a year for tuition, Newman said.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker