The LAPD have released new images of the man suspected of killing UCLA grad student Brianna Kupfer and announced a reward for his capture had increased to more than $250,000.
Ms Kupfer, 24, was found lying in a pool of blood at the Croft House furniture store in Hancock Park where she had been working alone last Thursday afternoon.
Ms Kupfer texted a friend moments before she was killed to say a customer was “giving her a bad vibe” just before her murder, but the message was not immediately noticed, police revealed at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
A $50,000 reward put up by the City of Los Angeles had swelled to over $250,000 after a flood of donations from private groups and individuals, police said.
They revealed the murder weapon was a knife, and that they had intelligence that confirmed the suspect is a homeless man.
LAPD police chief Michael Moore said the suspect visited several businesses in the same neighbourhood where Ms Kupfer worked prior to her death.
He said thousands of people would have been in the area and potentially seen the suspect around the time of the killing.
“This individual responsible for this vicious, senseless and brutal crime, walks amongst us, I am convinced that.”
Mr Moore said the suspect was Black, 6 ft to 6ft 5 inches (1.82m to 1.95m) tall, of slim build and short dreadlocks, wearing a backpack and distinctive facemask.
Lieutenant John Radke told media that Ms Kupfer had texted a friend to let them know there was someone in the store that “was giving her a bad vibe”.
“Regrettably that person did not see the text immediately, and at 1:50pm a customer… found Brianna lying on the ground, lifeless, covered in blood.”
The customer called 911 and police and paramedics arrived at the scene within minutes, but Ms Kupfer was already dead.
Mr Radke said the suspect walked “for miles” throughout the neighbourhood.
“Someone out there knows this man, someone out there knows what he did, and boy, there’s a lot of money on the table,” he said.
“Let’s get Brianna’s family justice.”
Los Angeles council member Paul Koretz said the “horrible murder” was an “attack on our way of life, our civil society and our neighbourhood”.
He read a statement from the Kupfer family which said: “Brianna, who was born, educated and was building her career here in Los Angeles, was a rising star in this community whose ascent was unnecessarily cut short by the actions of a heartless criminal last Thursday.
“In many ways she embodied everything that was great about Los Angeles and the entire city should grieve over this senseless act.
“Brianna was a smart, driven, funny and kind soul who only wanted to better herself and her community on a daily basis.
“While she could be shy at times, she lit up any room she was in, and strove to elevate everyone she met so they could be better versions of themselves.
“She deeply loved her familyand friends, and made every day better simply by her presence.
“We’ll miss her greatly, and there won’t be a day that goes by that we don’t think of her.”
The family thanked members of the community who had donated $200,000 to helping to find Ms Kupfer’s killer, and expressed the hope that he would be apprehended and convicted quickly.
“Please take the time to hug and cherish your family today, as Brianna would have wanted, and in her everlasting memory, work at the grassroots level to make our communities better everyday,” the family said.