A Virginia Tech graduate student was murdered by another graduate student Wednesday on the university’s campus. Xin Yang, an international student from China, was stabbed and decapitated by Haiyang Zhu, also a Chinese international student. The relationship between the two and the motivation for the murder are unclear.
Seven witnesses were present at Au Bon Pain, a café, where the two students were meeting for coffee. According to the Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech’s student newspaper, Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said police received a 911 phone call at 7:06 p.m. and arrived at the scene a minute later.
University spokesman Larry Hincker told the Collegiate Times that he was informed of the murder at 7:30 p.m. Because the suspect had been arrested, notifications were sent out instead of emergency alerts.
The first set of messages were sent out to subscribers of the emergency alert system at 7:44 p.m. in the form of text messages, voicemails and e-mails. The first notification was sent out in 60,000 text messages in 33 minutes. In all, 67,000 text messages were sent over the course of 33 minutes for the second notification.
Students living in the Graduate Life Center, where the murder took place, were admitted into the building, but non-residents were asked to stay out. The Squires Student Center was temporarily locked down, but since the system appeared to work successfully, the campus was not locked down. The Tech Policy Group, a group of senior university officials responding to emergency situations, did not meet.
Zhu was charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bond. The campus police and the university team which deals with mentally disturbed students told the Times that they were unaware of any possible mental condition of Zhu’s.
“An act of violence like this brings back memories of April 16,” Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said. “I have no doubt that many of us feel especially distraught.”
The university’s emergency alert system was used April 16, 2007, after Cho Seung-Hui killed 32 students and wounded many others before taking his own life. At that time, the university sent out e-mails to students over two hours after the first shooting. This stabbing was the first murder on campus since the massacre.