Police arrest four in beating death of China grad student near USC

By Daina Beth Solomon

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Four people, two of them juveniles, have been arrested in the robbery and beating death last week of a Chinese graduate student near his off-campus apartment, Los Angeles Police officials said on Monday.

The body of Xinran Ji, 24, an electrical engineering student who enrolled at the University of Southern California in the fall of 2013, was discovered on Thursday morning at his apartment, a few blocks away from where police say he had been attacked some six hours earlier.

Los Angeles Police Commander Andrew Smith said on Monday the four suspects, aged 19, 18, 17 and 16, had been arrested on murder charges with special circumstances in Ji's death.

The special circumstances could make the defendants eligible for the death penalty, Smith said. The four suspects are also accused of taking part in a separate robbery later that morning.

The beating death of Ji came two years after two other USC graduate engineering students from China were shot to death as they sat in a parked car together in a neighbourhood adjacent to the campus in what police said was a robbery attempt gone wrong.

Two men were later arrested and charged with the double slaying, a crime that stunned the prestigious private university. One suspect pleaded guilty to two counts of murder earlier this year and was sentenced to life in prison. His co-defendant is still awaiting trial.

(Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Eric Walsh)