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UNC-Chapel Hill grad student Tailei Qi charged with murder in shooting death of professor Zijie Yan

A graduate student at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill was charged with murder Tuesday morning in the shooting death of a faculty member.

Tailei Qi was charged with first-degree murder and possession of a weapon on educational property, both felony charges, UNC Police said Tuesday. Authorities identified the victim as Zijie Yan, an associate professor in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences. Qi is listed as a graduate studentin Yan’s research group.

“The University is in contact with Yan’s family and is providing resources and support,” police said in a statement.

Qi is currently being held without bail at Orange County Jail and faces possible additional charges as the investigation continues, UNC Police Chief Brian James said in a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Investigators determined that Qi and Yan knew each other, but they are still “exploring” the relationship between the two men, James said.

It is still too early to establish a definitive motive.

While Qi’s car was located on campus and impounded, the firearm used in the shooting has not yet been recovered, James said.

The Caudill Labs building on campus will remain closed as the investigation continues, James said. The FBI is assisting in the investigation.

UNC chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz remembered Yan as a “beloved colleague, mentor and father of two.”

Guskiewicz said he met with Yan’s family and offered his condolences. He also told them he would assist them through their loss.

On Wednesday, the university will ring the bell tower at 1:02 p.m., which will be followed by a moment of silence, in Yan’s honor.

Classes will be canceled on Wednesday and resume on Thursday, Guskiewicz said.

Shortly after 1 p.m. on Monday, UNC Police received a 911 call about shots fired at the Caudill Labs building on campus, James said at a news conference Monday evening. The building, close to the center of campus, houses a chemistry department.

Upon arrival, police discovered that the professor had been shot and killed.

“My prayers continue to be with the UNC Chapel Hill community today as the Tar Heels mourn the loss of Professor Zijie Yan, and process yesterday’s chaos and terror,” North Carolina Rep. Alma Adams wrote on social media Tuesday.

“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?” James said Monday. “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.”

After the suspect was apprehended, a campus-wide lockdown that had been prompted by the shooting remained in place while police confirmed the suspect’s identity and conducted a search for the weapon, James said.

“This loss is devastating, and the shooting damages the trust and safety that we so often take for granted in our campus community,” Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said Monday.

Gina Martinez contributed to this report.

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