Brianna Kupfer, Michelle Go, and Sandra Shells were all victims, police say, of random attacks by homeless or likely homeless people that occurred between January 13-15, 2022.
Their deaths – which span two coasts – have spurred a renewed debate about big cities’ policies toward the homeless population as well as mental health and criminal justice issues. Suspects in each case are under arrest. Go was murdered on January 15, 2022, in New York, pushed before a subway train. Kupfer was murdered on January 13, 2022, while working in a Los Angeles furniture store. Shells was attacked on January 13, 2022, while standing at a bus stop, also in Los Angeles.
The suspects are Shawn Laval Smith, Simon Martial, and Kerry Bell.
In all three cases, police said the attacks were completely random and unprovoked, with unclear motive.
Kupfer’s father blamed politicians for his daughter’s murder.
“Crime is truly spiking, and we have a lot of criminals on the streets that shouldn’t be out,” Todd Kupfer told Fox News.
“We have a lot of politicians that somehow forgot about people and think the key to getting elected is to support the lowest rung of our society and to give them rights and somehow that’s the answer to getting votes,” Kupfer said to Fox.
Here are the three victims, along with suspect information:
Sandra Shells was a California nurse who died after police say she was attacked by a homeless man while waiting for a bus. Los Angeles police have accused Kerry Bell of striking Shells in the face, ultimately causing her death.
Shells, 70, was from Los Angeles, California. According to CBS Los Angeles, Shells was assaulted as she “waited to catch a bus to her job at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center,” where she worked as a nurse.
According to a news release from the LAPD, on January 13, 2022, at around 5:15 a.m., Los Angeles Police Department Central Area uniformed patrol officers “responded to a radio call of an assault at the bus stop located adjacent to Union Station on the southwest corner of Cesar E. Chavez Avenue and Vignes Street.”
Upon arrival, police wrote, “officers discovered that the suspect, later identified as Kerry Bell, had struck the victim in the face, causing her to fall to the ground and sustain a fractured skull. Los Angeles Fire Department personnel responded to the scene and rushed the victim to a local hospital, where the victim received medical treatment for her injuries.”
LAPD Central Area officers, with the assistance of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, “quickly released photos of the suspect to officers in the area. Approximately ninety minutes later, officers from Central Area contacted Bell as he slept a short distance away from the incident. Bell was taken into custody without incident,” police wrote.
There was no discernible motive behind the attack, police say.
“The Los Angeles Police Department Central Bureau Homicide detectives assumed investigative responsibility for the case,” the LAPD news release says.
“Bell struck the victim without provocation and for no reason,” they say.
“On January 16, 2022, the victim died at the hospital from the injuries she sustained. The victim has been identified as Ms. Sandra Shells, 70-years old, a resident of Los Angeles.”
According to the LAPD, Bell is homeless.
The “investigation revealed Bell is a transient, with one prior arrest in Los Angeles, but multiple prior arrests in several other states,” police wrote.
“Anyone with information regarding this case is urged to call Detective Sharman, Los Angeles Police Department, Central Bureau Homicide, at (213) 996-4171. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (1-877-527-3247). Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call the LA Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477)…”
The Los Angeles County Jail booking information for Bell says he is 46-years-old and stands 6 foot 2 inches tall, weighing 220 pounds. He was arrested on September 8, 2020, for a misdemeanor.
He was arrested on January 13, 2022, in the Shells death, and his bail is $2 million.
Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center released a statement to Heavy via email, saying, “Sandra Shells will forever be remembered for her compassionate care and unmatched dedication to her patients and her community throughout her 38-year career at LAC-USC.”
The statement continued, “Sandra worked tirelessly and selflessly to keep her patients safe and healthy and will always be remembered as a kind, compassionate and giving nurse with a helpful and thoughtful nature who was a favorite amongst colleagues and patients.”
“There will never be enough words to express our gratitude for her tremendous work and dedication,” the statement said.
The murder of Kupfer was utterly random. Police said she was stabbed.
In a news release, Los Angeles police wrote that The Los Angeles Police Department, West Bureau Homicide detectives “are investigating the murder of 24-year-old Brianna Kupfer, a Pacific Palisades resident.”
“On Thursday afternoon, January 13, 2022, around 1:50 p.m., Wilshire Patrol officers responded to a radio call of an ‘Ambulance Assault with a Deadly Weapon’ at a business, located at the 300 block of North La Brea Avenue,” police wrote. “The officers met with the reporting party, a customer who had entered the store and discovered the victim deceased on the floor.”
Detectives have determined the suspect was not known to the victim and was a random walk in to the store. The suspect attacked the victim with a knife and fled the scene through the back door. There is no known motive at this time. The suspect was last seen on video surveillance northbound in the alley to the rear of the crime scene.
The suspect, Shawn Laval Smith, was captured on various surveillance videos going in and out of stores.
Police wrote that “the suspect is believed to be homeless.” He has a lengthy criminal record in at least South Carolina and California, including pending cases for which he was released on bail. Read more about that here.
In a news conference, authorities revealed that Kupfer had sent a text to someone she knew revealing that a person in the store was giving her a “bad vibe.” That person didn’t see the text immediately, authorities said.
You can see video of the suspect in this news report:
Kupfer was working at Croft House furniture and design store. According to Fox News, Brianna Kupfer was studying design at UCLA and had worked at Croft House as a consultant for about a year.
On LinkedIn, she wrote, “Design Consultant. Interior Architecture/ Interior Design.”
Fox 11 reported that Kupfer “was a UCLA grad student studying architectural design. She was working as a design consultant at Croft House – a high-end furniture store in the Fairfax District.”
Michelle Alyssa Go was a New York woman who was pushed to her death in a subway. Police are accusing a man named Simon Martial, who has a criminal history, of pushing Go.
Go, 40, lived on New York’s Upper West Side, according to The New York Post. She worked in business consulting, finance and investment banking, according to her LinkedIn page.
Go was Asian, but her January 15, 2022, death is not being treated as a hate crime, according to The New York Times, which reported that “hate crimes against Asian New Yorkers have risen sharply during the pandemic,” but “police said there was no indication that she had been targeted because of her ethnicity.” Authorities say Martial was only in the subway station for nine minutes before pushing Go.
U.S. Representative Grace Meng, who represents Queens, said in a news conference, “Too often Asian Americans are seen as foreigners and people who are not truly American, and so we want to make sure we are standing as a city against all discrimination.” She named three other incidents of violent crime against Asian American New Yorkers that occurred in “the last few weeks,” including attacks on a Sikh American cab driver, a Korean American man “trying to be a good Samaritan” and an elderly Korean American woman.
New York Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said in the news conference that, at approximately 9:30 a.m., uniformed officers at the 42nd Street-Times Square train station were told by passengers that “a male had just pushed a woman onto … the train tracks.”
They discovered Go under the train “with severe trauma to her body,” and she was pronounced dead at the scene, Sewell said.
The victim was standing on a subway platform “when she was suddenly pushed onto the train tracks” in front of an oncoming train, Sewell said.
“This was a senseless — absolutely senseless — act of violence,” Sewell said. She said the attack was “unprovoked” and that Go had no previous interaction with Martial, who fled the scene and turned himself in “a short time later.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Go’s family.
“Michelle was a vibrant, hilarious, beloved and thoughtful friend, daughter, sister, coworker and public advocate. There has been a tremendous outpouring of sympathy and support from those who knew her around the world, as she is remembered as a caring, natural leader and loyal friend. She will be greatly missed,” it says.
When reporters confronted the suspect, Simon Martial, after his arrest, he confessed to pushing Go into the train, according to The New York Post.
Martial, 61, yelled at reporters to “Go f*** yourself,” outside the Midtown South precinct, the Post reported.
Reporters asked if he had killed Go, and he replied, “Yeah because I’m God. Yes I did. I’m God, I can do it.”
Maria Coste-Webber told The New York Post that she witnessed the attack and Martial had “no expression” on his face but seemed to carefully time the push with the oncoming train.
According to Fox9, Martial is a homeless man with an “extensive criminal history.”
Police said Martial was “known to” police and the criminal justice system. He has three past “emotionally disturbed encounters” with police, said NYPD Assistant Chief Jason Wilcox in the news conference.
He has prior addresses in the Bronx, but “he might be homeless,” said Wilcox. “He does have a criminal background.” He was on parole at one point in time and did have a parole warrant that police are looking into, according to Wilcox.
According to The New York Times, Martial had prior arrests including “two prison sentences, including one for an attempted robbery for which his parole had recently ended.”
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