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Family of man killed by USC student speaks out after DA declines to file charges

Family of man fatally stabbed by USC student speaks out
Family of man fatally stabbed by USC student speaks out 02:20

The family of a man stabbed and killed by a USC student after he allegedly broke into a car near the student's home spoke out Thursday after Los Angeles County prosecutors declined to file criminal charges.

Xavier Cerf, 28, was on a street lined with fraternity and sorority houses just outside the USC campus when he allegedly broke into a car parked there. Surveillance video shows him entering a 2010 Mercedes Benz, according to charging documents from the LA County District Attorney's Office. Upon hearing the car's alarm go off, 19-year-old Ivan Gallegos came out of the frat house where he lives nearby. He had two other people with him.

Gallegos later told investigators he brought a knife because the area, within the sprawling South Los Angeles region, is dangerous and violent crimes have been committed against students. After confronting Cerf, they got into a struggle after Cerf allegedly told him he had a gun and reached for his waistband — an account the other people with Gallegos corroborated. 

The charging documents from the DA's office state that "there is no indication" Cerf had a gun on him.

Xavier Cerf, 28, appears left at a graduation ceremony. Detorrian Jones

Saying he feared for his life, Gallegos stabbed Cerf four times including once in the chest, according to the filings from the DA's office. He told investigators it was in self-defense, a reason prosecutors cited in their decision not to file charges.

"We believe that Mr. Gallegos's actions were driven by a genuine fear for his life and the lives of others," Venusse D. Dunn, a DA's office spokeswoman, wrote. "Our heart goes out to the deceased's family, friends and everyone impacted by this tragic incident."

But Cerf's family has expressed their disappointment in the DA's decision. His uncle, Detorrian Jones, said "it's not self-defense" when the other person is unarmed. "I'm so sorry. That doesn't give you the right," he said.

"And even if he was in some cars, I think they took justice into their own hands," Jones said. "They should've called the police and let them do their jobs."

Cerf came to Los Angeles from Texas to work on a social media career, Jones said. Although police previously described him as being homeless, Jones said the 28-year-old was not and had been living with friends at the time of his death. 

He also said Cerf had struggled with mental health issues.

Before his release Thursday, Gallegos had received widespread support from family, friends and fellow students at his university. On social media, many expressed their support for the 19-year-old student while a "Justice 4 Ivan" banner hung outside a frat house on Greek Row, where the deadly stabbing happened.

"He should definitely be freed," Rafael Cardenas, a friend of Gallegos who recently graduated from the university, told USC's Annenberg Media days after his arrest. "There should be no reason why he's even there right now."

Gallegos declined to speak with reporters upon his release from LAPD's 77th Street Station Thursday. 

Prosecutors have said the evidence collected in the case indicates Gallegos acted in self-defense, truly feeling his life was threatened as he thought Cerf had a gun. 

Meanwhile, Cerf's mother told the Los Angeles Times that hearing the news of her son's death has been "hard and devastating."

Before the DA announced no charges would be filed, Yema Jones told the Times that her son "wasn't a violent kid coming up" and loved to dance. In recent years, he struggled with mental health following the death of some family members, she said, and had hoped to move back to Houston.

"One thing about me is I'm never going to paint a pretty picture about my son. I'm just going to give you facts. Everybody goes through life issues," Jones told the Times. "Regardless, he was still a father. He was still a brother. He was still a son. It didn't have to go that far."

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