Los Angeles police on Tuesday identified a suspect in the fatal stabbing of an employee at the Hancock Park furniture store last week and announced a $250,000 reward for information leading to his arrest and prosecution.
Brianna Kupfer, 24, was working alone in the Croft House store on La Brea Avenue on Thursday when she was attacked. Police identified Shawn Laval Smith, 31, as a suspect and said they believe Kupfer was unknown. A motive was unclear.
Smith was in Pasadena, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and other locations in Southern California, police said, and is believed to be homeless and using public transportation.
Smith was arrested on a misdemeanor in the city of Covina in October 2020. In 2016, he was arrested in Charleston County, South Carolina, where he was charged with resisting or assaulting a police officer, according to court records. Smith was sentenced to extradition in North Carolina for assault with a deadly weapon, carrying a concealed weapon, and other crimes.
Earlier Tuesday, LA Police Chief Michel Moore said the suspect went to several stores along La Brea Avenue and the Beverly Boulevard corridor on the day of the stabbing.
“This person responsible for this vicious, senseless and brutal crime goes between us,” he said during a news conference.
The LAPD released video Tuesday showing the suspect at a nearby 7-Eleven store about 30 minutes after the murder. He was described as a tall, thin black man with braided hair, who was last seen in a dark hoodie, dark pants, black sneakers, a white mask and a large black backpack.
Anyone with information is asked to call West Bureau homicide detectives at (213) 382-9470. Anonymous tips can be submitted to Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.
Around 1:36 p.m. Thursday, Kupfer texted a friend saying she was uncomfortable about a person at the Croft House furniture store in La Brea, where the LAPD says she works alone.
The friend did not immediately respond to her message.
At around 1:50 p.m., a customer found her on the ground, covered in blood. According to the LAPD, she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Kupfer’s death “shook and shook our community to the core,” said Councilman Paul Koretz, who asked the city to offer a $50,000 reward, which was increased to $250,000 through community donations.
Moore said he sympathizes with Kupfer’s family.
“As a father, as a police officer, as a person — the unimaginable pain they go through because she lost a 24-year-old daughter who had a bright and optimistic future and all the promises of those brighter days,” Moore said.
Brianna Kupfer was fatally stabbed Thursday afternoon while working alone at the Croft House furniture store in Hancock Park.
Copper was a bright light everywhere, said her father, Todd Copper, when she phoned him.
“But her candle was extinguished far too soon,” he said.
Todd Kupfer said he hoped the reward would help arrest the person who killed his daughter.
“She loved to dance. She was good at socializing when it was her environment. She loved to laugh,” he said.
Kupfer was one of four children, all raised in Los Angeles, her father said. She ran track and field and was on the dance team at Brentwood High School before attending the University of Miami.
She took online courses for an architecture and design degree at UCLA, Todd Kupfer said.
“She loved geometric patterns, she loved design and drawing,” he said.
Kupfer started working at Croft House because it was a sustainable furniture company and she was passionate about such causes, her father said.
The Kupfer family plans to start a foundation to honor their memory, but Todd Kupfer doesn’t know what form it will take.
“It’s just so heartbreaking,” said Todd Kupfer. “It tore us apart. We really don’t know what to do and what steps to take. We just want her life to have more meaning.”
Since Kupfer’s death, friends have reached out to her father to express how much love she has brought into their lives.
Just before the pandemic, father and daughter took a trip to Northern California to pick up a dog, a silver Lab they named Remi. Last Christmas, Todd Kupfer’s four children gave their parents a blanket with Remi’s picture on it.
“This Christmas I told everyone how great it is that we are so close as a family,” said Todd Kupfer. “It was at a point now where everyone was happy and knew where they wanted to go. Brianna was the star of this group.”