A doctoral student at the University of North Carolina stormed into a classroom building, shot his faculty adviser, and then fled, after the attack paralyzed campus as police sought the gunman.
Tailei Qi, 34, was charged on Tuesday with first-degree murder and possessing a firearm on educational property in connection with the death of Zijie Yan inside a scientific building at the state’s premier public university on Monday.
UNC officers Chief Brian James stated during a press conference that Chapel Hill officers apprehended Qi without using force in a residential neighborhood near campus within two hours of the attack.
Investigators were attempting to uncover a motive and searching for the gun. He declined to indicate where in Caudill Labs Yan was slain. When a squad of officers arrived at the building, Qi had already gone.
Yan was “a beloved colleague, mentor, and friend to so many on our campus, as well as the father of two young children,” UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said at the news conference.
The school’s famed Bell Tower will ring in Yan’s memory on Wednesday afternoon, and students are encouraged to observe a moment of silence. Classes have also been canceled till Thursday.
Today, Wednesday, Aug. 30, the Bell Tower will ring at 1:02 p.m. in honor of associate professor Zijie Yan. We encourage every member of the #UNC community to take a moment of silence during this time to come together to recognize the loss we feel and to support one another pic.twitter.com/6c9sE8Dphe
— UNC-Chapel Hill (@UNC) August 30, 2023
Qi appeared briefly in Orange County Superior Court in Hillsborough earlier Tuesday. Judge Sherri Murrell ordered Qi to remain in jail without bond and set his next court appearance for September 18. Qi bowed to the judge, his Mandarin interpreter, public lawyer Dana Graves, and the guards who led him away in handcuffs after the hearing.
Graves walked out of court without speaking to reporters and did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
Yan was an associate professor in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences and has been with the university since July 2019. He oversaw the Yan Research Group, which Qi joined last year.
Wen Liu, a 2022 graduate who worked in the lab for three years, described Yan as a recognized and personable lecturer and research adviser who was deeply educated about the topic.
He was somewhat reticent, but always eager to answer questions patiently and respectfully, as well as advise lab members who became stuck in their research.
The lab’s main goals were to create and analyze nanoparticles under the influence of light utilizing lasers. The research could have uses in medicine and other disciplines.
Qi was identified as a graduate student in Yan’s research group on the school’s website, with Yan as his adviser, though the police chief stated their relationships were still being investigated. Qi previously attended Wuhan University in China before enrolling in Louisiana State University in 2021 to pursue a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.
Students and faculty who had returned last week for the beginning of the autumn semester were scared by the attack and the hours-long lockdown. On Tuesday, 29, August, 2023 students pet therapy dogs and chalk hearts, peace signs, and messages of hope on campus walking trails.
Noel Harris, a senior journalism student, said she spent perplexing and frightening hours sitting in a classroom reading news stories, listening to police scanners, and waiting for university updates on whether the threat had gone.
When an officer came, the class instructed him to first slide his badge beneath the door. The officer assured them that they were secure but advised them to wait until an all-clear was released. Soon after, Harris captured a video of people climbing out of the windows of a nearby building, and she began to ask, “So, is it really safe? “What’s going on?” she inquired.
This is back to school in America.
Run, hide, fight.
Jump out of windows.
Barricade behind doors in classrooms, dorms and bathrooms.
Duck and cover.
Hide under desks.
Text your parents goodbye. pic.twitter.com/nczpy3PLoY
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) August 28, 2023
She was still trying to figure out why the students left via the windows of Phillips Hall, where math and other classes are held, but no guns were fired, she added on Tuesday, 29, August, 2023.
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