Faith Monahan ’24
Associate professor Zijie Yan of applied physics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) was killed on Aug. 28 in a shooting on campus. One of his graduate students, Tailei Qi, has been arrested and charged with first degree murder and possession of a firearm on educational property. The incident is still under investigation.
A 911 caller had reported shots fired inside of the Caudill Chemistry Building at 1:03 p.m. Qi had been reported quickly leaving the building following the shooting. Campus security sent an Alert Carolina message to the college community to shelter in place. Students, faculty and staff locked down in classrooms, libraries, dorms and other facilitates as the police searched for the shooter. Police arrested and later released a different individual not involved with the shooting on Monday afternoon. The university police released a photo of Qi as a suspect of interest at 2:35 p.m. Qi was located by police at 2:31 p.m. near the UNC campus and placed into custody.
Qi was one of Yan’s three Ph.D. students who were members of a research group studying photonics and material sciences. A motive for the shooting has not been publicly announced by police.
Qi had made various posts on Twitter describing his experiences while in the UNC graduate program prior to the shooting. His social media accounts have since been shut down. Last fall, his posts often included vague descriptions of conflicts involving his fellow graduate students and principal investigator (PI). In October of 2022, Qi posted that “Both the group of people to say I am lazy and that to prove me working hard instead of telling me that they are trying to consume my privacy.” Some posts in June of this year included references to women including “gender quota is not to protect women but to enhance discrimination” and “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****.” A series of Qi’s posts were deleted. On July 31, Qi posted that he “would like to make some new friends.”
A judge ruled that the accused shooter will be held in jail without bail. The death penalty will not be sought by the prosecution. The suspect could be facing life in prison for the first-degree murder charge.
The gun used in the shooting was a 9 mm pistol. Officials have stated that the gun has not been recovered from the incident. UNC Police Chief Brian James announced at press conference that police could not announce how many shots were fired in the incident.
It is unclear how gun was obtained. In March of this year, the NC general assembly overrode the Governor’s veto of a law repealing required permits and background checks from local sheriffs for handguns. Law enforcement officials have stated that the suspect has not applied for a firearm permit prior to the veto. North Carolina has seen an increase in stolen guns; however, there is no penalty for lawful gunowners that do not store guns securely. There is also no requirement in North Carolina for gun thefts to be reported to law enforcement.