LOS ANGELES (AP) — Gunfire shattered the window of the BMW near the University of Southern California campus just after midnight, striking two Chinese graduate students inside.
The driver was able to make it from the car, through the rain, to a house where he pounded on the door pleading for help.
Ying Wu and Ming Qu, who police say were believed to have been dating, were dead by the time they got to the hospital Wednesday morning as police spread out looking for a killer suspected of bungling a carjacking.
The slayings shook the campus, which has a large international student population, and laid bare a parent's worst nightmare: having their child harmed in a faraway place.
Hundreds gathered Wednesday night on campus for a candlelight vigil in memory of Wu and Qu.
"The hearts of the Trojan family are broken," said Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni who opened the ceremony.
Votive candles in the shape of a heart and white roses and lilies sat at the foot of the Tommy Trojan statue, the university's collegiate symbol, where grieving students dressed mainly in black and faculty gathered for the vigil.
Clay Dube, executive director of the USC-China Institute told the crowd that Wu and Qu were brave, serious and diligent and they had traveled a long way to study here.
"The families have invested so much in these children, so much love, so much hope, and the children know that. They know the expectation is they will come here and succeed," Dube said.
At USC, the international student presence is enormous — it has the largest number of any university in the U.S. Roughly 19 percent of the school's 38,000 students are from overseas, including 2,500 from China.
And some students said the shooting could be a cautionary tale for others who want to study overseas.
"If parents hear about this in China, it might affect their decision," said Chrissy Yao, a Chinese-American who moved to the U.S. when she was 10 and is a senior engineering student. "Since two lives were lost, I think concerns will remain for quite a while."
Police said the shooting occurred around 1 a.m. and may have been a robbery or a carjacking attempt. Witnesses said the car was in the roadway, not at the curb, at the time of the shooting.
Later Wednesday, bouquets of roses, daisies, gladiolas and calla lilies sat next to a small table on the walkway of the home to which Qu ran for help. On the table was a remembrance book with a sign that read: "We will give this book to the parents of Ying Wu and Ming Qu. Write here in English or Chinese if you would like to share your thoughts with them."
Gloria Tigolo lives on the tree-lined street of two-story homes and apartment buildings and said she heard a gunshot. She said she went downstairs but didn't go outside because it was raining.
Investigators said earlier that several shots were fired at the couple.
Four people have been killed this year in the area, police said, but violent crime in the area is down 20 percent this year. Neighborhood watch signs are posted along the street and police were trying to determine if there are any surveillance cameras in the area.
Tigolo said she would often see Wu, 23, in the neighborhood, wearing dark sunglasses but rarely saw her drive.