Authorities charged a University of North Carolina graduate student Tuesday with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of his faculty adviser, in an attack that caused a campus lockdown while police searched for the gunman.
Tailei Qi, 34, is accused of killing Zijie Yan inside a science building on the Chapel Hill campus. In addition to the murder count, he is charged with having a 9 mm handgun on educational property, according to a warrant for his arrest.
Yan was an associate professor in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences who had worked for the university since 2019, UNC said in a statement Tuesday.
“The University is in contact with Yan’s family and is providing resources and support,” it said.
In a page that has been taken down since the attack, Qi was listed on the school's website as a graduate student in Yan's research group.
Qi, who lives in Chapel Hill, was arrested during a roughly three-hour lockdown that followed the shooting, authorities said at a Monday news conference.
“To actually have the suspect in custody gives us an opportunity to figure out the why and even the how, and also helps us to uncover a motive and really just why this happened today. Why today, why at all?” UNC Police Chief Brian James said. “And we want to learn from this incident and we will certainly work to do our best to ensure that this never happens again on the UNC campus.”
It wasn't immediately clear if Qi had an attorney who could comment on his behalf. He was being held without bail, the university said. There is no attorney listed for Qi on the warrant and Orange County court records aren't accessible online.
Campus police received a 911 call reporting shots fired at Caudill Labs just after 1 p.m. Monday, James said. An emergency alert was issued and sirens sounded two minutes later, starting a lockdown that led frightened students and faculty to barricade themselves inside dorm rooms, bathrooms, classrooms and other school facilities.
Officers arriving at the lab building found a faculty member who had been fatally shot, James said. Based on witness information, police took the suspect into custody just after 2:30 p.m., according to the chief.
The lockdown was lifted a short time later.
The university, with about 20,000 undergraduate students and 12,000 graduate students, canceled Tuesday classes.
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