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A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill faculty member was shot and killed on campus Monday, according to a statement from Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz. Police on Tuesday charged UNC graduate student Tailei Qi with first-degree murder in the death.
Local news reports Tuesday morning identified the shooting victim as Zijie Yan, an associate professor of applied physical sciences who was Qi’s faculty adviser. A local television station, WRAL, reported that the two men had co-published papers together and that the suspect was a member of Yan’s research group.
Police received a 911 call about shots fired at Caudill Laboratories, which houses the chemistry department and is located near the center of campus, shortly after 1 p.m. They issued a shelter-in-place order, leading students to barricade themselves in dorms, classrooms and other campus facilities. Some students were seen jumping out of a second-story window.
Police found the deceased victim and apprehended Qi nearby at about 2:30.
According to Brian James, chief of UNC police, the campus remained on lockdown even after the suspect was arrested because officials were searching for the weapon and wanted to make certain the area was safe.
They issued the all-clear at 4:14 p.m. Caudill Labs remains off-limits as police continue to investigate the incident. As of Monday night, they had not yet recovered the weapon or revealed a motive for the murder.
“This loss is devastating, and the shooting damages the trust and safety that we so often take for granted in our campus community,” Guskiewicz said in a press briefing. “We will work to rebuild that sense of trust and safety within our community, and our hearts are with the family of our fellow faculty member, those who are personally connected to the victim and those traumatized by this senseless act of violence.”
Classes were canceled Monday and Tuesday, along with all “non-mandatory operations.”
Near Miss at Edward Waters
As students, employees and leaders at UNC processed the shooting there, it became clear how close another institution, Florida’s Edward Waters University, came to a catastrophic incident of its own.
On Saturday, a public safety officer at the historically Black university in Jacksonville, Fla., approached a man in a campus parking lot wearing a bulletproof vest and a mask. The officer, Lieutenant Antonio Bailey, had been alerted to the man’s presence by a group of students who had deemed the man’s presence suspicious, according to accounts from MSNBC and other sources.
The man sped away in his car when he spotted Bailey in uniform, and the officer pursued him for a few blocks, reaching the geographical limits of his campus authority, and then alerted local police in Jacksonville.
Later, the man, Ryan Palmeter, allegedly shot and killed three Black people at a Dollar General store not far from the campus.
At a news conference Monday, the university’s president, A. Zachary Faison Jr., suggested that Edward Waters may have been the original target for the incident. He cited a note the killer left behind that said he wanted to kill Black people, using the N-word. “He could have gone anywhere in Jacksonville,” MSNBC quoted Faison as saying. “It wasn’t by happenstance that he chose to come to Florida’s first historically Black college. It wasn’t on a whim. He came to where he thought African Americans would be, and that’s Florida’s first HBCU. This is the heart of the Black community in Jacksonville.”
Doug Lederman contributed to this article.
(This story has been updated with new information as it has become available. Aug. 29, 1:10 p.m.)