The university confirmed in a statement that a suspect was in custody and a faculty member was dead.
The victim was Physics professor Zijie Yan, the academic advisor of the suspect, who has now been charged, the News & Observer reported, citing warrants filed in court. The motive is not clear.
“Our hearts are with the family of our #UNC faculty member, those who are personally connected to the victim and all those traumatized by today’s senseless act of violence on campus,” the university wrote in a statement.
“Carolina will move into Condition 2 – Classes will be canceled tomorrow and all non-mandatory operations are suspended. Tar Heels, please know support is available and campus departments stand ready to help,” the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill statement read.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Shots Were Fired in the Caudill Laboratories on Campus, the University Says
According to a statement from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill chancellor, on the afternoon of August 28, 2023, at 1:02 p.m., UNC Police “were notified of shots fired in Caudill Laboratories on our campus. At approximately 2:30 p.m., the suspect was apprehended and is now in custody.”
The statement says police “issued an ‘all clear’ to campus at approximately 4:15 p.m. There is no longer an immediate threat. UNC Police are working closely with Chapel Hill Police Department to gather information and continue their thorough and professional response.”
The statement continues, “I am grieved to report that one of our faculty members was killed in this shooting. We are waiting for confirmation that the next of kin has been contacted before we share more information.”
2. Tailei Qi Wrote on X That He Would ‘Like to Make Some New Friends,’ Saying He Was ‘a Bit Stupid in Daily Trifles’
On X, Qi wrote, “Graduate student @UNC, engaged in light-matter interaction and related materials.”
His most recent post read, “How did you find your postdoc position?” He also reposted a person’s tweet about a typhoon in China.
On July 31, 2023, he wrote, “would like to make some new friends. I am a second-year PhD student, interested in nanoparticle synthesis, optical trapping, self-assembly, spectra analysis, and ML. a bit stupid in daily trifles, very enthusiastic talking about research. Reach me if inerest.”
That same day, he wrote, “what is truth?” A post in June read, “When this kind of girl shows her ‘best’ to beg others to ‘help’ me, all people then look down on me. kind of angelic b****.” It’s not clear whom he was referring to.
He also wrote, “Many conunter-intuitive situation in society: minimum wage do more harm to instead to protect the poor; gender quota is not to protect women but to enhance the discrimination.”
In May, he wrote, “These kind of people may be a good man actually, but might not be a sincere friend. For a Phd student, pay much attention to working time every day is really childish…I know many people want to me to show them working and working, but no…that’s not human at all.”
His page at the university says his adviser was Zijie Yan and he was assigned to the Yan Lab.
3. Videos Show Students Jumping Out of Windows on Campus
Dramatic video showed students jumping out of windows on campus after the shooting news broke out.
UNC police had sent out a series of alerts, “Emergency: Armed, dangerous person on or near campus. Go inside now; avoid windows.”
Another alert said, “!Alert Carolina! Emergency – Update: Remain sheltered in place. This is an ongoing situation. Suspect at large.”
4. Tailei Qi Is a Second-Year Doctoral Student in Applied Physical Sciences Who Was Described as ‘Always Very Quiet’
His LinkedIn page says, “Tailei Qi is a graduate student at the department of applied physical sciences, UNC at Chapel Hill. He works on the optically trapped nanoparticle arrays and all kinds of their related fascinating phenomena. He has experience in 2D TMD photodetectors, optical tweezers (continuous wavelength laser and femtosecond laser, microspectroscopy (Raman, fluorescence, SHG, SEM, TEM, XDS, XPS, XRD) and 2G HTS superconductors. Nanoparticle synthesis and self-assembly, machine learning is also within the range of his interest.”
A motive for the shooting was not clear, nor was Qi’s relationship to the deceased faculty member.
The university has not identified the faculty member. Aiden Scott, a 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.”
Scott added that Qi struggled to speak English, saying, “Every single time he would talk to me, he seemed very nice. When I saw his face in the reports online, I was beyond shocked.”
5. Tailei Qi, Who Studied at Wuhan University in China, Wrote That He Plays Bandminton & Tennis
According to his LinkedIn page, Qi wrote that he “likes running and hiking. He was ever an 800m champion and sixth place of 1500m years ago. He plays badminton, tennis and table tennis.”
The page says he graduated from Wuhan University in China with a physics degree and then obtained a master’s degree in material science from Louisiana State University.
He wrote in July on LinkedIn, “Would like to share a paper of our work. Negative torque is very counterintuitive to our daily life as it doesn’t exist in the macroworld. In this work, we showed that the nanoparticle dimer stably trapped by circularly polarized light will experience a negative optical torque.”