The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Law enforcement continues search for weapon in UNC campus shooting

Photo Courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The search for a weapon used in the Aug. 28 shooting on UNC’s campus is still ongoing, according to multiple officials. UNC Police is collaborating with additional law enforcement units, including the N.C. Department of Public Safety and the FBI.

Tailei Qi is the suspect charged with the murder of professor Zijie Yan and possession of a gun on educational property, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office inmate listing. In a news conference on Aug. 29, Chief Brian James of UNC Police said the firearm used in the shooting was a 9 mm handgun.

Qi was apprehended on Williams Circle in Chapel Hill, leaving an approximate two-mile path from the site of the shooting, Caudill Laboratories, where a firearm could have been deposited.

The Daily Tar Heel received confirmation on Sept. 8 from UNC Media Relations that the weapon still has not been located.

Retired Orange County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Rick Smith said the investigation will most likely involve a hand search for the weapon, which he said would involve retracing Qi’s path and doing a grid search to cover every possible area.

Smith said the weapon could be located anywhere within the two-mile path. Land features like Bolin Creek will complicate the search.

“You would need to walk that thing up and down,” Smith said, referring to the creek.

UNC Police and the Chapel Hill Police Department declined to comment on the investigation or the nature of their collaboration with other law enforcement agencies. 

Information regarding details of the investigation by UNC Police and other law enforcement agencies will not be made public until after the ongoing investigation is concluded.

Chapel Hill resident Victor Monnet was on Greene Street in Chapel Hill on Aug. 29 — the day after the shooting — when he said he was questioned by FBI agents. Greene Street is on the other side of Bolin Creek from Williams Circle, where Qi was arrested.

“They asked us about the trash cans and recycling bins, like if they had been changed that day, which they had,” he said. “So we told him that they had.”

Monnet said the agents did not mention anything about a handgun or weapon, nor any connection to the UNC Police investigation.

A spokesperson for the FBI field office in Charlotte said in an email statement that the FBI continues to assist local law enforcement in their investigation.

"The FBI's Evidence Response Team processed the crime scene and conducted numerous investigative measures to locate the weapon," the spokesperson said in the email. "Our hearts go out to the victim's family and the entire UNC-Chapel Hill community."

Jeff Nieman is the district attorney pursuing the case for Orange County. He said in most criminal cases, the investigation continues after the recovery of a weapon, meaning sensitive information may not be released until long after the gun is found.

“An investigation is closed until the case has been resolved by either plea or trial,” Nieman said. 

He also said the average time for a final outcome in a homicide case in Orange County is between one and a half and two and a half years. 

Qi’s next court date is set for Oct. 24.

@DTHCityState |

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.