UNC emergency response to deadly shooting discussed, reviewed at Board of Trustees meeting

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Thursday, September 28, 2023
UNC Board of Trustees discuss emergency response
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Thursday's UNC Board of Trustees meeting took place one month following a deadly shooting on-campus.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Thursday's UNC Board of Trustees meeting took place one month following a deadly shooting on-campus.

Graduate student Talei Qi has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of his academic advisor, Associate Professor Dr. Zijie Yan, inside Caudill Labs.

"We plan for days like these as I've said many times over the past several weeks, but we hope to never need to activate the plan. But we did. We've been focused on caring for our people and working collectively for everyone to know our safety protocols, to follow our emergency operations plan, and to support one another," said UNC Chancellor Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz.

An Alert Carolina notification was issued within a minute of the shooting, though some students criticized a lack of details in the message.

"There are three areas that seem particularly important. First is how do we improve the initial actions that we take to support each other in such a situation. Second, what do we do better to secure our physical spaces? And third and perhaps most important what are the root causes that lead to something like this that we can address as a community," said Guskiewicz, who also referenced a separate incident earlier this month, in which somebody threatened the manager of Alpine Bagel with a gun.

'While I'm grateful for the response that we had, I am here today to implore you all, including myself, to keep doing more and to continue building a safer campus," said Christopher Everett, UNC Student Body President.

UNC Police Chief Brian James and Emergency Management and Planning Director Darrell Jeter each shared presentations on the university's response, as well as areas of review. James addressed questions over the timeline, specifically in regards to the lockdown. Police arrested Qi at 2:35 - about 90 minutes after the shooting - though the lockdown wasn't lifted until 4:14.

"The gun had not been located, and as of this date has still not been located. So we did a very thorough search of campus to include additional buildings, the building of the incident as well as the grounds. And we wanted to ensure we did everything we possibly could, especially if it was on-campus before we lifted that lockdown," explained James, who further noted the logistical challenges in having to re-implement a lockdown if necessary.

James said authorities are reviewing the placement of cameras on campus to ensure full coverage and credited training and coordination with partner agencies in playing a key role in its initial response. Moving forward, he emphasized the importance of a greater understanding of UNC's campus.

"Law enforcement officers (from other agencies) have asked for an exercise if you will to come on campus to get more familiar with campus," said James.

In the few weeks following the shooting, Jeter said that about half of calls to an incident hotline were from parents, voicing safety concerns and seeking additional information about the university's response. The increased interest and attention led to more than 7,000 new downloads of the Carolina Ready Safety App, which equals a 45% increase in users.

Carolina Ready Safety App

"Our campus community certainly wants to be informed, they want to tap into the resources that we have available to them," said Jeter.