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UNC shooting suspect makes first court appearance, is being held without bond


UNC Graduate student Tailei Qi makes his first appearance at the Orange County Courthouse on Tuesday, Aug. 29 2023.

Update: 2:40 p.m.: District Attorney Jeff Nieman told reporters after the arraignment that his office would not be pursuing the death penalty. He also clarified that the gun on educational property charge would likely be refiled as a felony.

Nieman also confirmed to reporters that Qi is a Chinese citizen studying in the United States on a visa.

The suspect charged with the murder of UNC associate professor Zijie Yan made his first appearance at the Orange County Courthouse today in Hillsborough.

Tailei Qi, 34, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and possession of a gun on educational property on Monday. Qi is accused of shooting and killing Yan in Caudill Laboratories around 1 p.m. He was arrested at around 2:30 p.m. at an off-campus residence, according to reporting from WRAL's Mark Boyle.

District Court Judge Sherri Murrell is presiding over the case. During Tuesday's arraignment, Murrell read out the charges filed against Qi. The murder charge filed against Qi carries a maximum punishment of death and a minimum punishment of life without parole. The gun charge was listed on the arrest warrant as a misdemeanor but may be charged as a felony. The felony charge would carry a maximum sentence of 24 months.

Qi is currently being held without bond in the Orange County Detention Center. Qi, who was provided an interpreter during the arraignment, will be assigned a public defender.

UNC's campus was put under lockdown at 1:04 p.m. on Monday shortly after a 911 call reported shots fired at Caudill Labs, UNC Police Chief Brian James said at a press conference Monday evening. Upon arrival at Caudill Labs, UNC police found that Yan had been shot.

An Alert Carolina emergency message gave the "all-clear" at 4:14 p.m.

UNC Graduate student Tailei Qi makes his first appearance at the Orange County Courthouse on Tuesday, Aug. 29 2023.

Qi was booked by UNC police into the Orange County Detention Center in Hillsborough at 12:38 a.m. on Tuesday, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office daily custody report.

Yan worked in the UNC Applied Physical Sciences Department, the same department that Qi studied in as a graduate student.

What happens next?

Qi's next court appearance is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 18. That will be a probable cause hearing, where Qi may be indicted.

@abbypenderr | @lucasthomae

@DTHCityState |

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Lucas Thomae

Lucas Thomae is the 2023-24 sports managing editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as an assistant sports editor and summer editor. Lucas is a senior pursuing a major in journalism and media with a minor in data science.