Authorities have charged Hengjun Chao, a former assistant professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, with attempted murder for shooting the school's dean and another man Monday morning at a deli in Chappaqua, N.Y. Chao is being held in jail.
The Journal News reported that revenge is believed to be a motive in the shooting of Dennis Charney, who is being treated for non-life-threatening injuries. The other man who was shot was treated at a hospital and released.
Mount Sinai officials confirmed that Chao was dismissed in 2010.
He then sued Mount Sinai in federal court and lost at the district court level and in a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
In the latter ruling, the appeals court rejected Chao's claims that the medical school and its officials -- including Charney -- defamed him and denied him his rights in finding that he engaged in research misconduct.
The appeals court found that Mount Sinai officials had been "presented with substantial evidence indicating that Chao had committed research misconduct." The case involved alleged data fraud, which Chao denied.
Further, the court found that the discussions among the faculty members who engaged in a "lengthy" investigation of Chao were protected by a "common interest qualified privilege" in that these discussions fulfilled the faculty members' professional obligations. There is an exception to that privilege if malice is demonstrated, but the appeals court found that Chao had not presented any credible evidence of malice.
Charles Ferry, chief of the Police Department for New Castle, N.Y., which handled the arrest, asked by The New York Times if the shooting was a case of revenge, said, “It would seem to be.... I think he came up here intent on shooting someone.”
Charney has been dean at Mount Sinai since 2004. His faculty biography on the medical school's website says that his research expertise is in neurobiology and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders.
It is rare but not unheard of for academics to be charged with murders of other academics. Chao is the second case this month.
An instructor is being held in the stabbing death two weeks ago of a professor emeritus at Missouri State University. No motive has been identified in that case.
In 2010, Amy Bishop, a former assistant professor of biology at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, killed three of her colleagues and wounded three more at a faculty meeting, after she was denied tenure.
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