Students and faculty at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill are raising concerns about racial profiling after an innocent Asian student was detained during the search for an active shooter.
Before the arrest of Tailei Qi, the apparent perpetrator in the recent shooting on campus which left one faculty member dead, police detained another Asian student who fit the description of the suspect they were searching for. Before law enforcement detained Qi, a Chinese doctoral student, officers first apprehended an Asian student who they later had to release.
UNC Shooting Update
Images of an Asian man in handcuffs circulated online and in local media outlets before he was eventually let go. UNC Police Chief Brian James later said at a press conference Monday evening that the first student was detained because he matched “the description that we were given of the suspect."
“We determined very quickly that that was not, in fact, the suspect,” he said. UNC police have not made any further statement regarding the wrongful detention.
While Qi has been charged with first degree murder, fear stills lingers among students and staff on the campus, particular among those who are Asian. Many have since spoken out about their concerns surrounding racial profiling, and whether or not they could be targeted.
Johnson Wei, a 21-year-old Chinese international student, said that after news of the shooting broke, and images of the first suspect began circulating, he became afraid to go out in public.
“When I walked outside, I was worried. I was afraid that people would stare at me, look at me in different ways,” he told NBC.
According to UNC's demographic data, approximately 17 percent of students are Asian American. The university also enrolled more than 2,500 international students during the 2022-2023 school year.
Despite inclusivity efforts, many Asian students have still reported feeling like outsiders. Wei said that he worries the Asian community could be blamed for the violence, a notion that is not so easily shaken off.
“I want to tell other people around me to unite together. I want us to make friends, especially with the local people, and tell them we’re not associated with a killer,” he said. “The killer doesn’t represent Chinese international students.”
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