The Los Angeles Police Department says a man and a woman, both in their 20s, were shot around 1 a.m. as they were sitting in a car on the 2700 block of Raymond Avenue near West 27th Street. Both victims were taken to a nearby hospital, where they were pronounced dead.
A vigil was held on campus for the students Wednesday night. A USC public safety official said the victims were Chinese graduate students at the school. The female victim was identified as Ying Wu, and the male victim was identified as Ming Qu. The students' hometowns and exact ages are not clear.
Neighbors said they heard three shots. Andrea Camarillo said she woke up to the sound of her brother shouting.
"He went up to the car and he started screaming, 'Are you OK,' and started clapping his hands, 'Can you hear me?'" she said.
USC campus police sent out text alerts to students, warning them about what had happened.
"I mean it's horrible. My advisor called me at 5:30 this morning to wake me up to head over here and see what's happening because it's not often USC students get murdered. You don't really expect someone you go to school with to get murdered," said Elyse Perlmutter, a student at USC.
The neighborhood is about a mile from the USC campus, too far for most, but residents say there are a small number of USC students who live in the area.
"We got USC professors also living in this area, so it's mostly family and USC-oriented to the point where it's like, this is just new to the block and everybody's mostly shocked because this just doesn't happen," said area resident Beatriz Moreno.
The victims were inside a newer model charcoal gray BMW. Police say there were several bullet holes in the car, and the driver's side window was shattered.
Police did not identify a motive, but one theory is the shooting may have been part of a bungled carjacking attempt. Authorities say they will comb through area surveillance footage for suspect clues. USC campus police are assisting LAPD with the investigation.
In a letter addressed to students, USC officials said the shooting occurred outside of the area where the school has steadily increased its security presence over the past several years. Officials also offered condolences to the victims' families.
"Our community is saddened and outraged by this callous and meaningless act. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims' families and friends and all who knew them at USC. The university is reaching out to those affected, offering counseling and support," officials said in the statement.
If you have any information regarding this incident, you're urged to contact LAPD at (877) LAPD-24-7 or (877) 527-3247.