Aug 30, 2023 - News

UNC-Chapel Hill campus quiet morning after deadly shooting

UNC's Polk Place was empty on Tuesday morning after classes were canceled. Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios

An eerie silence hung over UNC-Chapel Hill's main quad Tuesday morning, as a stunned campus tried to come to grips with a brutal killing on its grounds the day before.

  • Instead of students hustling between classes or gathering loudly around the Pit, classes were canceled and the university set up counseling stations across the campus.
  • On Franklin Street, passers-by discussed the trickle of information coming out about the shooting rather than the fall semester or upcoming football season.

After rampant speculation emerged in the hours after the Chapel Hill campus and much of the town went into lockdown, concrete information finally began to emerge Tuesday morning.

  • A motive behind the violence, however, has not yet been revealed.

The latest: The university identified Zijie Yan, an associate professor in the department of applied physical sciences, as the faculty member who was killed.

  • Yan was a photonics researcher and worked in Caudill Laboratories, one of the university's many research labs that has birthed scientific breakthroughs and accolades.
  • Caudill remained closed off Tuesday as police continued their investigation. A bouquet of flowers was laid near its entrance.
  • Yan had worked at UNC since 2019, having come from Clarkson University in New York. He held a Ph.D from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Flowers were left in front of Caudill Laboratories. Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios

Police formally accused a graduate student within Yan's lab as the killer.

  • Tailei Qi — who studied under Yan since last year, according to a now-deleted school bio — was charged with first-degree murder and bringing a gun on an educational campus, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
  • He remains in the Orange County Detention Center with no bail.

Details: UNC Police Chief Brian James said Tuesday that firearm used by Qi has not been found and it remains unclear if he obtained the weapon legally.

  • James added that Qi drove to the campus and traveled directly to Yan's location in Caudill Labs before leaving the building. Qi's car was impounded on campus later by the FBI.
  • Qi was arrested at Williams Circle, about two miles north of Caudill Labs, around 90 minutes after the shooting. James said it is believed Qi lives in a house on the street.

On Wednesday, UNC will ring its bell tower in honor of Yan at 1:02pm — the time the shooting was called into 911 — just a few steps from Caudill Labs.

  • Classes will also be canceled on Wednesday and UNC Police will increase its presence on campus in the coming days.

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