UNC Graduate Student Charged With First-Degree Murder of Professor

Collin Rugg/Twitter

Tailei Qi, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina, has been charged with fatally shooting his professor, Zijie Yan. He appeared in Orange County, N.C. court and was ordered to be held without bond. The alleged gunman was also charged with possession of a gun on educational property, which might be upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony.


This development comes after reports of an active shooter on the campus circulated on social media and cable news:

A graduate student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill was charged Tuesday with fatally shooting a professor — the latest in a spate of national gun violence that left a college community reeling and authorities trying to determine a motive.

Tailei Qi, an applied physical sciences major from China, made his first court appearance in Orange County Court, where he was charged with first-degree murder and ordered held without bond.

Qi, 34, was shackled in an orange jumpsuit and relied on a Chinese translator. He was also charged with possession of a gun on an educational property, which is expected to be upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony.

His public defender made no public statement after the hearing. A probable cause hearing was scheduled for Sept. 18.

Qi did not enter a plea at this time. The investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

On his LinkedIn profile, Qi says he enrolled at UNC's flagship campus in January 2022 as a graduate student and research assistant, and shared links to papers on his research in metal nanoparticles. One paper published last month in the journal Advanced Optical Materials was co-written with Yan.

Qi's LinkedIn profile says he previously studied at Louisiana State University and schools in China, including Wuhan University, before coming to North Carolina.

The firearm, described as a 9 mm handgun, was not immediately recovered in Monday's shooting, but authorities said they would be interviewing the suspect for a motive.


UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz expressed his condolences, acknowledging that it had been “a truly tragic day for our campus community” and that the incident “damages the trust and safety that we so often take for granted in our campus community.”

Reports suggest that Yan was one of Qi’s advisors, and the student was a member of the educator’s lab group. One of Qi’s fellow students told reporters that he had struggled with his coursework. "It always seemed to me like he didn’t really know what was going on in the class, but it always seemed like he meant well and was doing his best to stay on track," he said.

The campus plans to hold an event to honor the fallen professor. This incident brings the number of school shootings this year to 49.

Calls to 911 started coming in shortly after 1 p.m. The school’s police issued a shelter-in-place alert and urged students to close windows and doors. Qi was arrested and taken into custody shortly after 2:30 p.m. after being found in a residential neighborhood near the campus. No other victims or injuries were reported.



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