Updated Sep 13, 2023 - News

'It's normal': UNC goes into lockdown again, two weeks after fatal shooting

Manning Hall on UNC's campus. Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios

UNC-Chapel Hill again went into a lockdown for an armed and dangerous person Wednesday — almost 16 days to the minute after a fatal shooting on the same campus.

The latest: The university sent out an alert at 12:54pm Wednesday asking students and faculty to shelter in place, after a man threatened an employee at Alpine Bagel, a restaurant in the school's student union, with a gun, according to university officials.

  • At 2:13pm, the university lifted the lockdown after it confirmed the armed man was no longer on campus.
  • At 2:54pm, Chapel Hill Police arrested a 27-year-old man, Mikel Deonte Harris, of Durham, on outstanding warrants related to a Sept. 5 assault at an apartment complex north of the campus. Police said Harris was sought in connection with the incident on campus Wednesday.

The big picture: Many students were in the same building — even the same classroom — as they were during last month's campus shooting. At 1:03pm on Aug. 28, the university sent out an almost identical alert, setting off a terrifying three-hour lockdown.

  • It wasn't until later that evening that police announced Zijie Yan, an associate professor in the department of applied physical sciences, had been killed.
  • Tailei Qi — who studied under Yan since last year, according to a since-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.

Between the lines: On Tuesday, UNC students rallied at the legislature to demand more gun safety laws, as N.C. Health News reported.

  • Alexander Denza, a UNC senior, helped organize those protests as part of the student-led organization March For Our Lives. A day later, Denza was sheltering with around 30 students in the same classroom where they sheltered two weeks ago.
  • Denza told Axios that students at the university have been shocked and stressed by the experience of two lockdowns and feel dismissed and mocked by leaders of the state.

What they're saying: "Every single student here is going through [trauma] from two weeks ago and has to go through it again," Denza told Axios over the phone.

  • "We seem pretty desensitized to" the shootings, Denza said, because they keep happening with no response. "It's like, we've gotten to a point where it's normal."

The two events took place within a month of the fall semester beginning. The first day of class was Aug. 21.

  • UNC canceled classes on Wednesday afternoon, but will return to normal schedules on Thursday.

What's next: UNC police chief Brian James said that the university is in a review process on how it can improve its response to active threats, including by upgrading the technology it uses to monitor campus.

  • However, the review process had not been completed by Wednesday's incident.

Editor's note: This is a developing story. Check back for updates.


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