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Reputed gang member charged in USC shootings

Monday - 11/5/2012, 10:21pm  ET

By LINDA DEUTSCH
AP Special Correspondent

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A reputed gang member pleaded not guilty Monday to four counts of attempted murder for allegedly opening fire outside a Halloween party on the University of Southern California campus.

Brandon Spencer of Inglewood made a brief court appearance and was ordered held on $2.4 million bail. The 22-year-old was named in a complaint filed Monday by Los Angeles County prosecutors.

His lawyer, James M. Simmons, told reporters there are identity issues surrounding his client. He said two men were initially arrested but only one was charged. He suggested that witnesses gave conflicting accounts of the incident to police.

Simmons said his client has no criminal record and had been scheduled to begin classes Monday at UCLA in a nursing and EMT program. He declined to comment on whether he was a gang member.

At a news conference, Simmons said he was asked by the defendant's father to tell everyone: "Mr. Spencer is a good person."

Four people were wounded, one critically, at the party attended by hundreds of people. It was sponsored by a student organization but neither the shooter nor the victims were students at USC.

The felony complaint says the shootings were committed for the benefit and at the direction of a criminal street gang. If convicted, Spencer could go to prison for life.

Superior Court Judge Shelly Torrealba set his preliminary hearing for Dec. 6.

The shootings occurred despite a strengthening of security following the April slayings of two Chinese graduate students about a mile from the school.


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)