A graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been arrested and charged with fatally shooting a faculty member, police said on Tuesday.
The graduate student, Taipei Qi, a Chinese national, has been charged with first-degree murder as well as possessing a gun on education property. After being arrested, he’s being ordered to be held without bond, and he didn’t enter a plea yet.
Zijie Yan has been identified as the victim. He was serving as an associated professor in the school’s department of Applied Physical Sciences, and has worked for the school since back in 2019.
According to Brian James, the police chief for UNC, Qi and Yan knew each other.
Qi was a student in that department, and Yan was serving as his faculty adviser. Qi began studying at UNC last year. He previously studied at Wuhan University and Louisiana State University.
During his initial court appearance on Tuesday, Qi needed an interpreter. He had a public defender assigned to him for that court appearance.
Jeff Nieman, a district attorney, said that Qi is a Chinese citizen and has a visa to be in the United States.
James further said that Qi was charged with possessing a 9 mm handgun, but the gun that he used during the shooting hasn’t been recovered yet.
If he were convicted on the charges, Qi would face life in prison without the possibility of parole at minimum for the first-degree murder charge, as well as two years for the gun charge.
In North Carolina, the maximum penalty for first-degree murder is the death penalty. However, Nieman said that his office has a policy of not seeking the death penalty in cases.
On Wednesday, the school planned to ring its bell tower in Yan’s honor, according to Kevin Guskiewicz, the chancellor of UNC. He also expressed condolences to the family of Yan. As Guskiewicz said of Yan:
“He was a beloved colleague, mentor and a friend to so many on our campus, and a father to two young children. …
“This loss is devastating and the shooting damages the trust and safety that we so often take for granted in our campus community. We will work to rebuild that sense of trust and safety within our community.”
The shooting happened during the early afternoon on Monday at the Caudill Laboratories on campus. After the shooting took place, the university went into lockdown for a few hours.
James said that Qi was eventually found roughly one mile away from campus, on foot, and was detained nearly 90 minutes after the shooting took place. Police found Qi’s car still on the UNC campus.
At a news conference that was held Monday night, James said:
“We want to ensure that we gather every piece of evidence to determine exactly what happened here today and why it happened. It is too early in this investigation to know a motive for the shooting.”