CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — A suspect, identified as Tailei Qi, has been arrested for first-degree murder after a UNC faculty member was shot and killed Monday afternoon.
CBS 17 previously reported UNC was on a lockdown for more than three hours for an active shooter alert. University of North Carolina Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz confirmed a faculty member was shot and killed in a campus building by Qi.
Arrest warrants stated that the “defendant unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously did kill and murder Zijie Yan.”
Qi faced a judge for the first time on Tuesday after Monday’s hours-long campus lockdown. Along with first-degree murder, Qi is also charged with bringing a weapon onto educational property.
The maximum sentence for first-degree murder is the death penalty. However, District Attorney Jeff Nieman said they will not be pursuing it.
Qi entered the Orange County courtroom in silence Tuesday, with his hands handcuffed in front of his bright orange jumpsuit. He listened intently as the judge, Nieman and a Mandarin interpreter explained his charges and the possible sentences he could face.
CBS 17 has learned the 34-year-old Chinese citizen was at UNC-Chapel Hill on a visa. Officials would not specify what type of visa.
Qi’s page on the UNC website has been taken down. Previously, it stated that he was a second-year doctoral student. He studied at Wuhan University in China and Louisiana State University, before coming to UNC-Chapel Hill. Qi was part of the Yan Research Group, led by faculty adviser 38-year-old Zijie Yan.
On Monday, investigators said Qi brought a 9-millimeter pistol onto campus and shot and killed Yan in a room at Caudill Laboratories. Officials said he then left the room.
The entire campus was locked down for three-and-a half hours. Qi was arrested just a six-minute drive away from campus, on Williams Circle.
“I can say that those eyewitness accounts helped lead the police there,” explained Nieman.
UNC police were out on Williams Circle on Tuesday morning, with K9s searching for more evidence.
CBS 17 found some troubling social media posts, created by Qi.
He wrote he was looking to make new friends.
In another Tweet, he mentioned conversations with his peers, and with his research group’s “Principal Investigator,” which is another term for faculty advisor. His advisor, on the UNC website, was listed as Yan.
Officials have not released why Qi sought to kill Yan.
However, investigators are still searching for key pieces of evidence, like the gun that was used.
Qi is next set to be in court on Sept. 18, with an appointed lawyer from the Capital Defenses Office.
However, the court date and procedure could change if he is indicted by a grand jury, beforehand.
Yan was identified in a statement from the university as an associate professor on Tuesday. Just after 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, UNC said the Carolina community is mourning his loss. Yan worked as an associate professor in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The university said it is in contact with Yan’s family and is providing them resources and support through this difficult time.
He received a dual B.S. Materials Science and Engineering, Computer Science and an M.S. in Physical Electronics from Huazhong University of Science and Technology. Yan received a Ph.D. in Materials Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and spent his postdoc at the University of Chicago.