Ivan Hernandez, the man accused of killing a USC Thornton student in early March, pleaded not guilty in Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center Monday.
Hernandez is being charged with one count of murder and one count of attempted robbery in the death of Victor McElhaney. Hernandez is currently being held without bail.
McElhaney was shot and killed at 11 a.m. on March 10, according to LAPD. The incident occurred on the corner of Maple Avenue and Adams Boulevard, about 1.5 miles from USC’s main campus.
LAPD arrested Hernandez on June 28.
“Based on evidence and witness statements, Robbery-Homicide Detectives identified Ivan Hernandez as one of the individuals responsible for murdering Victor McElhaney,” LAPD stated in a news release.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Office claims Hernandez is “an active participant in a criminal street gang.”
Lynette McElhaney, Victor’s mother, said the incident is another example of the gang violence that occurs in the area.
“When I canvassed that area, numerous residents of the mostly Hispanic neighborhood expressed their own fear and frustration with the unmitigated gang violence there,” she said.
However, Hernandez’s attorney disputes the gang allegation.
R. J. Manuelian told Annenberg Media that “[m]ere association or friendship with people who may or may not be in a gang does not automatically mean that you’re a gang member.”
Manuelian also believes there are issues of identity since the incident happened very quickly and in a dark place.
Since the incident happened at a strip mall, Manuelian said there is the possibility of having video and audio surveillance. He said he is looking forward to obtaining them because he believes “it will exonerate [his] client.”
The next hearing will be held on October 31, according to Judge Teresa Sullivan. If convicted as charged, Hernandez can face a possible maximum sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole or death.
Annenberg Media did not receive statements from LAPD and the district attorney representing McElhaney in time for publication.