UNC Chapel Hill Physics Professor Found Dead In Office Was Shot 7 Times, Medical Examiner Says
A view of the area as community is stunned and classes are cancelled as genome science faculty Zijie Yan suspected to be shot and killed by 34 year old Tailey Qi in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States on August 29, 2023.
Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A University of North Carolina Chapel Hill physics professor who was found dead in his office in August had been shot seven times, a medical examiner said.

Zijie Yan, an associate professor in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences at the College of Arts and Sciences, had gunshot wounds to his head, face, neck, left arm, chest, and abdomen, as well as graze wounds to his right upper arm, left hand, and left forearm, ABC News reported.

Police were called to the scene on the afternoon of August 28, just one week into the fall semester, after someone called 911 to report gunshots at Caudill Labs. The caller also identified the alleged shooter, 34-year-old Tailei Qi, a graduate student. Yan was listed as Qi’s academic adviser.

Campus police quickly placed the school on lockdown as they conducted a brief search for Qi. He was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and misdemeanor possession of a gun on an education property. It is unknown why Qi allegedly shot Yan.

The gun used in the shooting has not been found.

An investigation report obtained by ABC showed mixed entry and exit wounds in Yan’s right hand, right bicep, left forearm, right neck area, with additional wounds to his face and forehead.

On September 19, Qi’s attorneys requested that he receive a competency evaluation. Qi responded by requesting new representation, ABC 11 reported. The judge overseeing the case told Qi at the hearing that he should follow the advice of his attorneys.

“I don’t want you to say anything else today. What I want you to know, is that you have two lawyers beside you who are willing to work for you and with you, and what they need from you is your cooperation and your help. Things will not go at the speed you want them to. Our court system does not work at any one person’s pace or interest,” the judge said.


Qi had repeatedly spoken up during the hearing.

Student newspaper The Daily Tar Heel published statements from the campus community describing Yan as a “gentle” mentor and a good father.

“Because of how gentle he seemed, I could tell that he was probably a really good dad,” Bergen Murray, senior and member of Yan’s research group since she was a freshman, told the paper. She added that Yan was always “very, very patient” with her, even though she joined the group with little experience.

Monika Katarina, a postdoctoral research associate who also worked in Yan’s research group, told the outlet that the associate professor would sometimes bring his two young daughters to the lab, adding that his love for his daughters was obvious.

Yan was born in China and graduated from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology before he moved to the U.S. to pursue his Ph.D. from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2011. He finished his doctoral studies at the University of Chicago in 2015 and became an assistant professor at Clarkson University before joining UNC in 2019, where he became tenured.

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