Quiet campus mourns loss of ‘beloved colleague’

More details emerged about the Caudill Labs shooting and its victim, applied physical sciences associate professor Zijie Yan.

A man, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz, speaking into a microphone at a podium at a news conference. Standing next to him is another man, UNC Police Chief Brian James.
UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz and UNC Police Chief Brian James spoke at a news conference on Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2023. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

The day after Monday’s tragic shooting at Caudill Labs and a temporary lockdown, 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.

“He was a beloved colleague, mentor and friend to so many on our campus and a father to two young children,” Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said at a Tuesday news conference.

Lamenting the “tragic loss,” he announced that the Bell Tower would toll at 1:02 p.m. Wednesday and campus would observe a moment of silence in Yan’s memory. A vigil will be held at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on Polk Place. If it rains, the vigil will move to the Dean E. Smith Center.

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

Messages of sympathy and support

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 ’08 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 from the trustees. “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.”

Investigation details

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

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 is facing charges of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm on educational property.

Reminders about resources

UNC-Chapel Hill’s Human Resources office and Student Affairs updated information about the availability of mental health resources.

For employees, the Employee Assistance Program will have dedicated counselors available Wednesday in person from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Chapman Hall room 125 and by phone at 704-525-5850 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Read the complete message to employees.

Students may call the 24/7 CAPS line at 919-966-3658. See more services offered through Counseling and Psychological Services.

The University has set up a hotline at 919-918-1999, open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Wednesday, to address concerns and questions and provided more mental health tools and resources for students, faculty and staff through the Heels Care Network.

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.”

Stay informed with the latest information from the University:Latest updates: Campus grieves after shooting at Caudill Labs.