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Man held in fatal stabbing of USC student near campus

Travion Ford did not live at the site of the slaying, which was not gang-related, police say. A knife is found.

September 25, 2008|Larry Gordon | Times Staff Writer

Nearly a week after a USC cinema student was stabbed to death in a confrontation just north of campus, police announced Wednesday that they had made an arrest in the case.

Authorities said Travion Terrett Ford, 24, was booked on suspicion of murder and was being held without bail. They said that he did not live at the address where Bryan Richard Frost, 23, was killed and that the attack was not gang-related. Police also said that they had recovered a knife they believe was used to kill the student and that they were questioning a female companion of the suspect.

Word of the arrest came as about 70 people, most of them students, attended a forum Wednesday night on crime in the area and questioned university and Los Angeles Police Department officials about ways to improve safety.

The killing of Frost early Sept. 18 prompted USC's undergraduate student leaders to convene the campus gathering at Bovard Auditorium.

"It's an opportunity for students to voice their concerns and for university administrators to listen and talk to them," said John Legittino, a student government spokesman.

An announcement by LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith that an arrest had been made was met with applause and expressions of relief.

"I think it's tremendous news," said Michael L. Jackson, USC's vice president of student affairs. "I hope it gives comfort to students that this person is no longer at large in the community."

Jens Midthun, undergraduate student body president, said he thinks "everybody will be happy to know he's been caught. At the same time, this is not going to bring Bryan back." So, Midthun said, it is important to continue to improve security at the campus.

Students at the meeting asked questions about staffing levels of campus police and about response times to emergencies and complained about long waits for campus transportation. Campus Police Chief Carey Drayton said his department had increased patrols in the area. He also said he had been urging city officials to improve lighting on side streets near the school but "with very little success."

Police and USC officials also urged students to help increase their own safety by not walking alone at night, avoiding confrontations and taking no unnecessary risks.

The university announced a new arrangement with the Yellow Cab company, effective Oct. 1, that will make it easier for students to call for a taxi late at night and allow them to use their campus debit card to pay for it. USC already offers free escorted rides in the surrounding neighborhoods late at night, but students have complained of long waits for these so-called campus cruisers.

Frost, of Idaho, was walking home with two other students near 28th Street and Orchard Avenue about 2:30 a.m. when he reportedly got into an argument with a man from an apartment complex along the route. The assailant fled after the attack.

Concerns about safety were high at USC this school year even before the killing. Frost's slaying occurred about a week and a half after two female USC students were sexually assaulted in separate early morning incidents near their university-owned, off-campus housing, within blocks of where Frost was stabbed. No arrests have been made in those assaults, and authorities say there is no connection between them and the stabbing.

Meanwhile, about eight of Frost's USC friends were preparing to drive to Boise, Idaho, to attend his funeral, according to his roommate and close friend Rishab Mehra. Frost's family had come to Los Angeles for a few days after his death.

A senior from India who is majoring in business and film, Mehra said he is satisfied with the way the university handled the aftermath of Frost's death and related crime issues. "I'm sure the school is trying," he said. "I'm sure the school is really worried about its reputation and safety."

Mehra said the arrest was "great news."

"I am more than relieved," he said in a telephone interview. "I am happy that things are more complete now."

Mehra shared a three-bedroom off-campus apartment with Frost and another friend. Frost's now-empty room will remain vacant for at least the rest of the semester and the other young men will shoulder the extra share of rent. "We have not even thought of looking for someone else," Mehra said.

He urged fellow USC students not to let down their guard about safety precautions in the neighborhood late at night. "People do not think it can happen to them," he said.

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larry.gordon@latimes.com

Times staff writer Andrew Blankstein contributed to this report.

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