Just after midnight on March 10, Victor McElhaney, a 21-year-old music student at the University of Southern California, was killed not far from campus in what police described as a botched robbery.
In the aftermath of her son’s murder, his mother, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, an Oakland city councilwoman, said: “Victor’s not a homicide number or statistic or just another black boy gunned down in South Central Los Angeles.”
We looked into the publicly available LAPD data on his murder to see how the police recorded, labeled and tagged the crime.
Here’s how the incident appears on the city’s Open Data Portal:
Here’s how we would have written that crime up, if all we had to work with was the data in that screenshot:
At 12:24 a.m. on Mar. 10, a 21-year-old black male student was overwhelmed by multiple suspects and murdered in a parking lot outside 200 E. Adams Blvd. in Historic South Central, just east of University Park, USC’s home neighborhood. LAPD data indicate that the murder weapon was a handgun and that the incident was gang-related.
Some of the information in the paragraph above comes from the “MO Codes” listed just below the “Crime Code Description.” LAPD tags most crime reports in their system with MO Codes, for “modus operandi,” Latin for operating method or style.
LAPD defines the MO Codes it used to describe McElhaney’s murder as follows:
0342: Multiple suspects overwhelm
1402: Evidence Booked (any crime)
1100: Shots Fired
0430: Victim shot
1309: Suspect uses vehicle
0302: Aimed gun
1251: Victim was a student
These codes raised some questions for us. One is the code the police use to categorize gang-related crime, for example. Yet no news article we’ve found about the murder mentions gangs. Additionally, while the police said the slaying happened after an attempted robbery, there is no mention of that in the codes.
We asked the LAPD about these details. They declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
This is how USC’s Department of Public Safety reported the murder:
Homicide | 4:16 a.m. | Outside USC Area (location unknown)
“LAPD officers reported that a student was the victim of a homicide.”
Crosstown will continue to monitor the LAPD’s incident report for any changes. We will follow up with the police when they are ready to discuss the incident and the data that describes it.
Read more about Victor McElhaney’s life here.