A faculty member at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was shot and killed on campus on Monday afternoon and a suspect was taken into custody, according to school officials.
UNC Police shared details at a press conference several hours after the ordeal, saying the department received reports at around 1 p.m. of shots fired at UNC’s Caudill Labs, a building dedicated to chemistry sciences. When police arrived, they found one faculty member shot dead.
“I’m very sorry to be standing before you today in these circumstances. It’s a day we train for, but we hope it never comes,” said Brian James, the chief of the UNC Police Department.
UNC-Chapel Hill Chief of Police Brian James consoles students who had spent hours in lockdown Monday.
Doctoral student Tailei Qi, 34, was taken into custody around 2:30 p.m. in connection with the shooting, CNN and local station WRAL reported. He was being held on charges of first-degree murder and carrying a gun on education property, jailhouse records show.
The slain faculty member was identified as associate professor Zijie Yan, who worked in the school’s department of applied physical sciences. Yan was Qi’s academic adviser and they worked on several research publications together through Yan’s UNC research group, which Qi joined last year, according to UNC’s website.
Qi’s photo, which until early Tuesday had appeared on UNC’s website, had been circulated by police as showing a person of interest in the attack. James said police were able to identify the suspect thanks to witness information on the scene.
This photo shows a person of interest in today’s armed and dangerous person situation. If you see this person, keep your distance, put your safety first and call 911. pic.twitter.com/NHG5CTjby4
— UNC Police (@UNCPolice) August 28, 2023
Representatives for the university and the police department did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment Tuesday.
“This loss is devastating, and the shooting damages the trust and safety that we so often take for granted in our campus community,” said UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz.
All classes and events on the campus, which has about 32,000 students, were canceled for the remainder of the day Monday and on Tuesday.
Earlier, UNC Police issued a warning to the campus and local community to stay sheltered in place and released a photo of a “person of interest,” describing them as “armed and dangerous.” People on campus were ordered to shelter in place until police gave the all-clear shortly after 4 p.m.
“If you see this person, keep your distance, put your safety first and call 911,” UNC Police said in an tweet with the photo.
The incident occurred just a week after classes started following the summer break.
“This is a tragic way to start a new semester and the state will provide any assistance necessary to support the UNC community,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said.
The attack at UNC comes just days after two significant mass shootings. Last Wednesday, a gunman opened fire at a bar in Southern California, shooting nine people and killing three. Then, on Saturday, a 21-year-old white man fatally shot three Black people at a Dollar General store in Florida.