UNC Graduate Student Found Unfit for Trial in Faculty Adviser’s Killing

A judge in Orange County Superior Court has declared a University of North Carolina graduate student unfit to stand trial in the fatal shooting of his faculty adviser. Tailei Qi, 34, was charged with first-degree murder and misdemeanor possession of a firearm on educational property following the death of associate professor Zijie Yan in a campus science building on August 28.

Judge Alyson Grine stated on Monday that two independent mental health evaluations concluded Qi likely suffers from untreated schizophrenia. The assessments indicated that Qi exhibited delusional thinking, auditory hallucinations, engaged in self-harm while detained, and demonstrated fragmented thought processes, impairing his ability to communicate effectively.

According to Judge Grine, Qi’s severe mental illness hinders his ability to comprehend his situation, participate in his defense, and understand court proceedings, even with the assistance of a Mandarin interpreter. As a result, Qi will be committed to Central Regional Hospital in Butner for psychological treatment. The hospital is required to inform the Orange County district attorney if Qi’s condition improves.

The incident, which occurred shortly after the fall semester commenced, triggered an hourslong campus lockdown and a police manhunt, ending with Qi’s arrest in a residential area near the campus by Chapel Hill police. The campus experienced another lockdown two weeks later due to a reported weapon incident in the student union.

An autopsy report showed that Yan, an associate professor in the Department of Applied Physical Sciences since July 2019 and leader of the Yan Research Group, suffered multiple gunshot wounds. Authorities found nine 9mm cartridge casings in his office at Caudill Labs but have yet to recover the handgun used in the shooting. The investigation continues into how Qi, on a student visa and ineligible to purchase a firearm legally, obtained the gun.

The university community mourned Yan’s death, with students holding a candlelit vigil and advocating for gun control measures in response to the tragedy.

Chris Morris
Author: Chris Morris

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