Campus public safety officers detained the student and turned him over to Los Angeles city police on Friday.
The university identified the victim as Bosco Tjan, an expert on vision loss who focused on age-related ailments. He was the co-director of USC’s Dornsife Cognitive Neuroimaging Center and had taught at the school since 2001.
Brown was one of five students who worked in the lab, according to the AP. Nathaniel Kwok, another student who worked in the lab, said students like Brown work on projects they developed under the supervision of Tjan.
Brown, who Kwok described as “friendly” but “a little on the reserved side,” started working in the lab in 2013, although last year he took a semester-long leave of absence.
The stabbing happened just days after an Ohio State University student drove a car into a crowd outside a building at that university then attacked people with a butcher knife. Authorities have not ruled out whether that attack was terrorism-related.
In Los Angeles, police hurried to say that students and the public at-large weren’t in danger.
“This was not a random act of violence,” USC’s Department of Public Safety said in a news release. “The Los Angeles Police Department believes this was the result of personal dispute.”
Chris Purington, project manager at Tjan’s lab, told the AP that Tjan was married with one son. Purington said that he never knew of anyone who had a problem with Tjan or would want to see him dead.
“He was somebody who really cared about people. I know he cared about me,” Purington told the AP while crying. “He mentored people, and he looked out for them. He spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be a mentor and guide people. … People talk about scientists as very cold or robotic. Bosco is a guy that he could talk to anybody about anything.”