University News

Latest updates: Campus grieves after shooting at Caudill Labs

Classes canceled and most operations suspended through Wednesday to process death of a faculty member on Monday.

A person's hand placing flowers at a makeshift memorial at the base of a bell tower.
A woman adds a flower to a makeshift memorial for faculty member Zijie Yan at the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. Yan was killed in the on-campus shooting at Caudill Labs on Aug. 28. (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Editor’s note: Updates will be made as more information becomes available.

10:45 a.m., Aug 31

Classes resume on Thursday

For the first time since Monday, students and faculty returned to class on Thursday.

“As we go back to class and continue our important work,” Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz told the campus community at Wednesday night’s vigil in honor of faculty member Zijie Yan, “I, like you, will be walking around campus in the coming days. I look forward to talking with you. Feel free to stop me, to reach out and share your experiences.”

10:30 a.m., Aug. 31

Vigil honors ‘a life well lived’

They came in the thousands to honor the memory of Zijie Yan, a brilliant, soft-spoken faculty member and nanoscience researcher killed in a campus shooting on Monday.

But Wednesday night’s vigil at the Dean E. Smith Center also allowed the Carolina community to come together to process the fear and uncertainty caused by the shooting and resolve to be “Carolina Strong” in the wake of the tragedy.

“His loss will be deeply felt by all those who knew him and loved him,” Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said to the mourners, who included Yan’s mother and two young children. “Dr. Yan left this world a better place for his brilliance, his commitment and the lives that he affected. That’s a life well lived and a life ended far, far too soon.”

Read the full story on Wednesday night’s vigil.

A large crowd of students, faculty, staff and community members standing and holding candles at a vigil in an arena.

(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

3:15 p.m., Aug. 30

Candlelight vigil to be held at Dean E. Smith Center

Because of the threat of rain and bad weather, the 7:30 p.m. Wednesday candlelight vigil for faculty member Zijie Yan will be held at the Dean E. Smith Center.

“As we return to classes and activities tomorrow, it is important that we take time to mark the impact of this shooting, which has shaken the trust and safety of our campus,” Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz wrote in an email to campus. “Tonight’s vigil is a chance to gather, listen to each other and grieve during this difficult time. I encourage each one of you to join us as we recognize the loss in our community.”

Livestream the vigil.

2:25 p.m., Aug. 30

Bell Tower memorial ringing

At 1:02 p.m. on Wednesday, Tar Heels paused as the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower rang in memory of faculty member Zijie Yan, who was killed in Caudill Labs on Monday.

A crowd of community members gathered near the Bell Tower, where a makeshift memorial had been set up to honor Yan, who was an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ applied physical sciences department.

A group of people standing on a grassy surface and brick pathway near a bell tower while pausing for a memorial ringing.

(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

A crowd of people gathered at a memorial near a bell tower.

(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

A group of people pausing while sitting and standing during the ringing of a bell tower.

(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

9:15 p.m., Aug. 29

Carolina community pays tribute to Zijie Yan

The day following the death of faculty member Zijie Yan, members of the Carolina community mourned the loss and paid tribute to him.

A makeshift memorial formed at the base of the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower, where people brought flowers, handwritten letters, origami art and even a molecular model to honor Yan, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ applied physical sciences department.

On Wednesday, the Bell Tower will ring at 1:02 p.m. in Yan’s memory.

A flower memorial at the base of a brick wall of a bell tower.

(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Flowers, origami art and a molecular model.

(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

A handwritten letter with a flower placed on top of it.

(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Students bringing flowers to a memorial at the base of a brick wall of a bell tower.

(Brennan Doherty/UNC-Chapel Hill)

8:05 p.m., Aug. 29

Asian American Center brings community together online

The Asian American Center hosted a webinar Wednesday afternoon so that the campus community could reflect on and talk about the tragedy.

Heidi Kim, the center’s director, Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz and Michelle Robinson, associate chair and associate professor in Carolina’s American studies department, shared the moments of care and encouragement that they experienced during the campus lockdown and after learning of associate professor Zijie Yan’s death.

Guskiewicz said that over 120 community members had accessed counselors and that the webinar was another way of listening and talking with each other. After taking a few questions from participants, Kim said the session was a start in finding ways for campus to come together.

Split screen from a Zoom meeting: a woman, Heidi Kim, on the left and Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz on the right.

A webinar was hosted by the Asian American Center on Aug. 29, 2023, on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In this screen grab, Heidi Kim, the director of the Asian American Center, speaks with Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz during the webinar. (Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

In the webinar’s second portion, Susan Chung, clinical social worker in Counseling and Psychological Services, offered suggestions for dealing with mental stress, anxiety and grief including:

  • Realizing that it is normal to have a stressful reaction to an unusual circumstance.
  • Monitoring yourself for two to four weeks to see if you are still feeling an acute reaction, such as a racing heart rate, fear, anger and dizziness and/or having a hard time focusing.
  • Trying to continue your normal life and daily routine.
  • Finding someone you trust to talk with and practicing self-care.

To help with staying calm, Chung demonstrated a breathing exercise. She held her breath while counting from one to 10 out loud slowly and imagining each number, then took a deep breath. She repeated the exercise two more times.

In a third segment, Jigna Desai, professor in the UC Santa Barbara Asian American studies department and an expert on racism directed at Asians and Asian Americans, talked about media narratives, especially racialized social media narratives that spring up around incidents. Kim said that racialized narratives and conspiracy theories come from a need to explain what happened and why.

By Scott Jared, University Communications

7:55 p.m., Aug. 29

‘At times like these, the term Carolina family becomes evident and real’

General Alumni Association President Veronica Mora Flaspoehler ’08 on Tuesday shared a message on the GAA website about Monday’s campus shooting.

“The Carolina family is dealing with the tragic loss of one of our own,” Flaspoehler wrote. “We mourn the loss of Zijie Yan, a professor in UNC’s department of applied physical sciences and a promising researcher, who was shot and killed yesterday in his lab. Our heartfelt condolences go out especially to Yan’s family and loved ones, as well as his friends, colleagues and students.”

Flaspoehler said that in the coming days and weeks, she would share what Carolina Alumni can do “to build hope and support out of this senseless act.”

“At times like these, the term Carolina family becomes evident and real. We are in mourning, but we will find our way ahead, together,” Flaspoehler said.

Read the full message on the GAA website.

5:50 p.m., Aug. 29

More details emerge about Caudill Labs shooting

At a Tuesday afternoon 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 and immediately exited the building and left campus on foot, James said.

Suspect Tailei Qi 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.

4:45 p.m., Aug. 29

Campus events to honor Zijie Yan

At 1:02 p.m. Wednesday, the Bell Tower will ring and campus will observe a moment of silence in memory of Zijie Yan, the faculty member killed in a campus shooting Monday. That evening at 7:30 p.m., the University will hold a candlelight vigil on Polk Place for Yan, associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ applied physical sciences department. If it rains, the vigil will be held in the Dean E. Smith Center.

4:08 p.m., Aug. 29

Statement from UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees

David L. Boliek Jr., chair of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, issued the following statement Tuesday on behalf of the board:

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Yan family, especially his two young children, and our faculty, staff and students. 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.

“We want to thank Chief James, our entire public safety team and the other law enforcement agencies who followed the plan and moved swiftly and decisively to secure the scene and restore safety and order to our campus. This is a time for healing and solidarity, and we remain committed to both.”

3:55 p.m., Aug. 29

Statement from the UNC Board of Governors

Randy Ramsey, chair of the UNC System Board of Governors, issued the following statement Tuesday afternoon on Zijie Yan’s death:

“The scholars and staff on our campuses are devoted public servants, and they do important work on behalf of all North Carolinians. 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.”

3:45 p.m., Aug. 29

Carolina will stay in Condition 3 through Wednesday

UNC-Chapel Hill will continue to operate at Condition 3 until 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 30. Classes are canceled and non-mandatory operations are suspended for Wednesday.

In Condition 3, University facilities are closed. The University will return to normal operations at 12 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31. Read more information at AlertCarolina.unc.edu.

2:35 p.m., Aug. 29

View livestream of UNC Police news conference at 3:30 p.m.

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz and Chief of Police Brian James will provide an update on Monday’s shooting at Caudill Laboratories.

Livestream: YouTube.com/uncchapelhill

1:40 p.m., Aug. 29

Mental health resources update

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

For employees, the Employee Assistance Program will have dedicated counselors available for Tuesday and 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.

For students, counseling resources will be available for students at the following locations on Tuesday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Students may also call the 24/7 CAPS line at 919-966-3658.

Additionally, 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.

Read the complete message to students.

12:45 p.m., Aug. 29

From UNC Police Media Release

Carolina mourns the loss of Zijie Yan, faculty member in applied physical sciences department

The Carolina community mourns the loss of Zijie Yan, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ applied physical sciences department who was killed in yesterday’s on-campus shooting. Yan worked for the University since 2019. The University is in contact with Yan’s family and is providing resources and support.

Tailei Qi, the graduate student suspected in yesterday’s shooting, has been charged by the UNC Police Department with first-degree murder and possession of a weapon on educational property, both felony charges. He is being held at the Orange County Jail without bail.

10:35 a.m., Aug. 29

Campus grieves after shooting at Caudill Labs

“It’s a day we train for, but we hope never comes,” said UNC Police Chief Brian James at a Monday news conference following an afternoon that brought campus to a standstill.

At 1:02 p.m. Monday, a 911 call alerted the police that shots had been fired at Caudill Labs. Two minutes later, the Alert Carolina sirens began to sound, and text and email messages advised all on campus to shelter inside immediately because an armed and dangerous person was at large.

A faculty member, whose name has not been released, was killed in the shooting. While those on campus sheltered in place, UNC Police aided by multiple local, state and federal law enforcement agencies searched for the shooter, taking him into custody at 2:38 p.m. The lockdown continued until police had verified the suspect’s identity and conducted a search for the missing weapon. The “all clear” notification sounded at 4:15 p.m.

The investigation is ongoing, so the name of the shooting victim has not been released and neither has the name of the suspect. Police said Monday it was too early to know a motive for the shooting.

“I am devastated and saddened by today’s shooting in one of our campus buildings, a place where we conduct our important work of teaching, mentoring and research every day,” wrote Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz in a campus message sent out after the lockdown ended. “This shooting damages the trust and safety that we so often take for granted on our campus. We will work to rebuild that trust and safety. Our hearts are with the family of our fellow faculty member, those who are personally connected to the victim and those traumatized by this senseless act of violence.”

Guskiewicz’s message also included information about counseling resources available for students through the Dean of Students team or Counseling and Psychological Services and for faculty and staff through the Employee Assistance Program.

A hotline (919-918-1999) for parents, loved ones and community members began at 8 a.m. on Tuesday.

Classes and events on campus were canceled for the rest of Monday and the University was closed through midnight Tuesday. The Caudill Lab building is closed until further notice.

“I am grateful to our Emergency Operations Center and UNC Police for managing this situation so effectively and keeping our community safe,” Guskiewicz said at the news conference. “I’m also grateful to our faculty, staff and students for their effective cooperation during this event today. It’s why we have an Emergency Action Plan and an Active Shooter Protocol that’s practiced regularly.”

Guskiewicz pointed out that the Emergency Action Plan rolled out last year included evacuation and shelter-in-place procedures specific to buildings on campus that were used in this emergency.

“Our Emergency Operations Center took this very seriously, learning from tragedies that have happened on other campuses,” he said.