CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The day after Monday’s shooting at Caudill Labs and a temporary lockdown, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill campus was quiet as classes were canceled and non-mandatory work suspended.

Supporters and universities from the UNC system and across the country shared sympathetic messages and mourners placed makeshift memorials on campus. At least one memorial featured a model of a molecule in tribute to the research done by shooting victim Zijie Yan, associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ applied physical sciences department.

Zijie Yan

At a Tuesday news conference, UNC Police Chief Brian James shared a detailed sequence of events in Monday’s shooting incident.

The armed suspect drove to campus, entered Caudill Labs, went directly to the victim, shot, immediately exited the building and left campus on foot, James said.

Suspect Tailei Qi, a doctoral student, was taken into custody by Chapel Hill police on Williams Circle, about two miles north of campus. He is being held without bail at the Orange County Jail in Hillsborough. Qi, who did not enter a plea, is facing charges of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm on educational property.

According to Qi’s UNC biographical page, which has been deleted, Yan was his faculty advisor. Qi entered the school in 2022 and listed his previous colleges as Louisiana State University and Wuhan University.

Orange County District Attorney Jeff Nieman said that the gun used in the shooting has yet to be found, and that he won’t pursue the death penalty, making life in prison the maximum possible punishment.

Carter Scott, a UNC grad student and former classmate of Qi’s, told WRAL News, “I would have never guessed that he would be the kind of person who could possibly be capable of this kind of thing. He was always very quiet.”

Tailei Qi

Scott added, “In hindsight, I would guess he probably didn’t have a very good network here. I get the impression he went to another university out of the country. So he was very new. Very out of his element … So I can see a situation where he didn’t have that many people close to him.”

Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz described Yan as “a beloved colleague, mentor and friend to so many on our campus and a father to two young children,”

Lamenting the “tragic loss,” he announced that the Bell Tower would toll at 1:02 p.m. Wednesday and the campus would observe a moment of silence in Yan’s memory. A vigil was scheduled for Wednesday evening on Polk Place.

The university announced that classes would be canceled and most campus offices would remain closed on Wednesday. The university returned to normal operations on Thursday.

In emails and on social media, people across the country shared messages of solidarity and sympathy for Tar Heels following the tragedy.

General Alumni Association President Veronica Mora Flaspoehler shared a message with alumni, writing: “At times like these, the term ‘Carolina Family’ becomes evident and real. We are in mourning, but we will find our way ahead, together.”

The University of Virigina posted on Instagram a photo of a building on its Charlottesville campus with a beautiful large sky above it. “Today, the sky over Grounds is Carolina Blue” was written on the image.

On Tuesday evening, the Duke Chapel carillon recital featured Carolina’s alma mater. “We are standing with our friends, family and colleagues at @UNC,” Duke University tweeted.

University governing bodies also expressed their support. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Yan family, especially his two young children, and our faculty, staff and students,” Board of Trustees Chair David L. Boliek Jr. wrote in a statement. “The Board of Trustees stands in support of recovery efforts as the campus community finds its way forward. We are committed to providing the necessary resources to the professionals on campus who provide mental health and other support services to the university community, as well as public safety efforts to support and keep the campus safe.”

In a statement from the UNC System Board of Governors, Chair Randy Ramsey wrote, “The death of Dr. Zijie Yan is a deep loss to those who knew him, to the institution he served and to the entire state. On behalf of the Board of Governors, I want to thank the countless men and women from across the UNC system and our state and federal law enforcement partners who rushed to offer aid and sympathy in the aftermath of yesterday’s awful events. We stand in support of our friends and colleagues at Carolina.”

Provost and Chief Academic Officer J. Christopher Clemens and other campus leaders sent a message on “returning to operations with care and compassion.” The letter asked faculty to “ease back into the classroom and be authentic about how we are each processing Monday’s events.”

The Asian American Center on campus hosted a webinar Wednesday afternoon so that the campus community could reflect on and talk about the tragedy.

Heidi Kim, the center’s director, Chancellor Guskiewicz and Michelle Robinson, associate chair and associate professor in Carolina’s American Studies Department, shared the moments of care and encouragement that they experienced during the campus lockdown and after learning of Yan’s death.

Guskiewicz said that over 120 community members had accessed counselors and that the webinar was another way of listening and talking with each other. After taking a few questions from participants, Kim said the session was a start in finding ways for the campus to come together.

In the webinar’s second portion, Susan Chung, clinical social worker in Counseling and Psychological Services, offered suggestions for dealing with mental stress, anxiety and grief.

In a third segment, Jigna Desai, professor in the UC Santa Barbara Asian American Studies Department and an expert on racism directed at Asians and Asian Americans, talked about media narratives, especially racialized social media narratives that spring up around incidents. Kim said that racialized narratives and conspiracy theories come from a need to explain what happened and why.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *