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USC student will not face charges for deadly stabbing on Greek Row

USC student will not face charges in deadly stabbing on Greek Row
USC student will not face charges in deadly stabbing on Greek Row 00:39

A University of Southern California student will not face criminal charges for stabbing and killing a man who allegedly broke into a car near his home on Greek Row, prosecutors said Thursday.

Ivan Gallegos, 19, and two other men approached Xavier Cerf, 28, around 8:15 p.m. Monday in the 700 block of West 28th Street, a street lined with fraternity and sorority houses in a neighborhood just outside the USC campus. Gallegos was inside a fraternity house where he lives when he heard a car alarm go off, according to charging documents from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. That's when he and the other men went outside and found Cerf inside a car he allegedly broke into.

They confronted Cerf over the situation, and sometime after, Gallegos stabbed him four times, the documents state.

Cerf was not breathing when officers arrived, police said.

Gallegos told investigators he killed Cerf in self-defense, believing that Cerf was armed with a gun, according to the DA's office documents. Gallegos and those with him said Cerf told them he had a gun and appeared to be reaching for one. 

It turned out that Cerf was not armed.

Gallegos remained at the scene before being detained by officers, police said, while the two men with him were questioned and later released. He was held on $2 million bail for three days. 

Then, on Thursday, he was released from LAPD's 77th Street Station in South Los Angeles — not long after the DA's office announced it would not pursue any criminal charges against him.

"After careful consideration and a thorough review of all available evidence, we have decided not to pursue charges against USC student Ivan Gallegos," DA's office spokeswoman Venusse D. Dunn wrote in a statement.

Meanwhile, Cerf's uncle, Detorrian Jones, said his family is disappointed in the DA's decision, arguing that Cerf wasn't actually a threat since he was not armed.

According to the charging documents from the DA, Gallegos admitted to stabbing Cerf and said he was armed with a knife because the area is dangerous and there have been violent crimes against students.

Cerf was captured on surveillance video getting into a 2010 Mercedes Benz just outside the fraternity house where Gallegos lives, according to the filings from the DA. When the car's alarm went off, Gallegos and two other men in the frat house came outside to find out what's going on. They told investigators they did so because there have been break-ins in the area.

Gallegos was armed with a knife and one of the other men had a "large wooden stick," the documents state. They told Cerf to get out of the car and initially he refused, but "after a few seconds," he opened the car door, according to the charging documents. 

Cerf then allegedly told them he had a gun and "simultaneously reached for his waistband with both hands, as if reaching for a gun," the documents state. That's when Gallegos grabbed Cerf's hands with his left hand and stabbed him in the chest with his right hand, according to the DA's office charging documents. They got into a struggle and Gallegos stabbed Cerf three more times.

One of the people with Gallegos called 911 to report someone had broken into a car and was injured, the documents state. The three men then went back to the frat house and waited for authorities to arrive.

"Gallegos admitted that he never saw a gun and there is no indication that (Cerf) was armed with a handgun," the charging documents state.

But the filings then go on to state that Gallegos acted with the "actual and reasonable belief that deadly force was necessary to protect himself and others from the imminent threat of being shot."

On Thursday, the DA's office said it would not be pursuing charges against Gallegos. 

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

Upon Gallegos's release Thursday afternoon, reporters gathered outside LAPD's 77th Street Station in anticipation that he would speak publicly. His mother said he was traumatized, not ready to speak and just wanted to go home.

LAPD has said Cerf was believed to be homeless but his uncle told KCAL News he was not homeless and struggled with mental health issues.

USC has said Gallegos is a student in the Marshall School of Business.  

Police initially said Cerf was 27 years old but prosecutors and Cerf's family later confirmed he was actually 28.

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