Skip to comments.Shock from killing ripples through Tech
Posted on 01/24/2009 6:51:29 AM PST by marktwain
BLACKSBURG -- Virginia Tech police on Thursday released gruesome details of a killing in a campus cafe, as students wondered why a campus that went two decades without a murder before the April 16, 2007, shootings has become the site of so much tragedy.
When police arrived Wednesday night at Au Bon Pain inside the Virginia Tech Graduate Life Center, they found a decapitated female victim who had arrived on campus just two weeks ago and a young man they have now charged with killing her.
The events have shocked a campus still coping with the 2007 shootings of 32 students and faculty and have once again shone a spotlight on the school's Asian community.
Tech officials said Thursday the victim, 22-year-old Xin Yang, was a graduate student from Beijing who had arrived Jan. 8 to begin her studies in accounting at the Pamplin College of Business. She lived in the center.
Haiyang Zhu, 25, a graduate student from Ningbo, China, was charged late Wednesday with first-degree murder and is being held in the Montgomery County Jail without bond.
Haiyang is a doctoral candidate majoring in agricultural and applied economics. He began his studies at Virginia Tech at the start of the 2008 fall semester.
Tech officials said the victim and suspect knew each other, and Xin listed Haiyang as an emergency contact. Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said he did not know the extent of their relationship or how long the two students knew each other.
They were sitting at a table having coffee at the Au Bon Pain cafe in the Graduate Life Center when the disturbance began shortly after 7 p.m.
Witnesses told police there was no sign of an argument between the two before the attack, Flinchum said.
Seven people -- customers and Au Bon Pain staff -- saw the attack and fled the restaurant. Two people called 911.
Flinchum said, as far as he knows, no one tried to intervene in the attack. He declined to answer questions about whether Haiyang yelled anything before or during the atttack.
When police arrived less than two minutes later, they discovered Xin's body, Haiyang and an 8-inch-long kitchen knife that police believe he brought to the cafe and used in the attack. Haiyang did not resist arrest.
Haiyang was not called to the attention of Tech or Blacksburg police before Wednesday, Flinchum said. Nor had he been called to the attention of the university's threat assessment or CARE team -- university groups designed to deal with troubled students.
Joe Epperly, a Tech senior and animal and poultry sciences major, had Haiyang as a graduate teaching assistant in his marketing agriculture products class.
"He was always friendly and helpful throughout that class," Epperly said via e-mail. "Others who knew him through that same experience had nothing but good things to say about him and we are all in disbelief that he committed such a violent crime.
"It was a side of him we never experienced."
Haiyang's attorney, Stephanie Cox, could not be reached for comment at her office Thursday afternoon.
Tech did not cancel classes Thursday and the graduate center was open.
The windows and glass doors of Au Bon Pain were blocked from the inside, and the cafe will be closed until it is repaired and cleaned. More than 100 graduate students live in the center, which opened in the 2005-06 school year.
Formerly the Donaldson Brown hotel, the center is used for university offices, classrooms and communal areas in addition to serving as a residence hall.
Linsey Barker, graduate student representative to Tech's board of visitors, said the tragedy is hitting students hard.
"Especially since it took place in a space which is intended to foster graduate student community," she said in an e-mail. "A unique space which is really central to graduate education."
The university had counselors available in the Graduate Life Center and Squires Student Center and has organized special counseling to witnesses and first responders.
Counselors were also available to international students at Tech's Cranwell International Center.
Director Kim Beisecker said the center was offering students support and encouraging them to visit if they wanted to gather with friends. The center is also working with the Chinese community to decide how to handle Chinese New Year celebrations at Tech scheduled for this weekend.
"They're appropriately shocked," Beisecker said of the students. "I don't think I would classify it as a lot of fear."
There were few obvious signs of the tragedy on campus Thursday as students went about their third day of classes this semester.
The police tape used to cordon off the crime scene Wednesday night was in a trash can outside the Graduate Life Center.
A message from Karen DePauw, dean of the graduate school, offering support to those affected by the tragedy was on a flat screen monitor in the building.
There are about 4,300 graduate students on Tech's Blacksburg campus, about 1,600 of whom are international. DePauw described the students she had spoken with as shocked and saddened by the killing.
But, drawing from their experiences after the April 16 shootings by South Korea native Seung-Hui Cho, they have shown a willingness to reach out to one another.
"I don't know how many times I've already been asked, 'What can I do?' from students," she said.
About midday Thursday, one counselor sat in a room in the graduate center waiting for students, faculty or staff who wanted to talk. He would not say how many people had come by, but most of the student traffic in the building Thursday afternoon consisted of students filing in and out of classrooms.
Sitting in Squires on Thursday afternoon, Morgan Thorndike said the fact that such a gruesome attack happened at a restaurant where she gets coffee every morning is surreal.
It brought back memories of April 16 for the sophomore.
"My roommates were like, 'Why is it always us?' she said. "I know it hits home for a lot of people. It's scary."
At Thursday's news conference, Tech President Charles Steger offered condolences to the victim and her family and also referred to the shootings.
"An act of violence like this brings back memories of April 16, and I have no doubt that many of us feel especially distraught," he said.
"Once again we are challenged as a community to offer support for one another."
As a Tech alumni, I heard that all of the people there--who fled--were actually young women, who could not do anything about the attack other than to call the cops.
...just doing the job American’s won’t do....
I have to disagree. It is more like he is becoming Americanized. All you have to do is check out the US domestic violence murder rate for citizens to know that.
Nothing to do with America or Americanization. Asia has more than it's fair share of nut jobs.
The unfortunate victim’s family of this tragic event can sue the school for first disarming, then failing to protect her.
Disappointing to read the tone of these posts in Free Republic. I live 25 mins drive from Tech. My son is a high school senior and has been accepted...will be commuting from home. He is there today and tomorrow for an Honors Band Camp and I know although it’s “sad” as he put it on campus, everyone is continuing with life as normal as possible. And no, from what I understand classes were not cancelled, but many professors chose to dismiss or cancel on their own.
The female officer first on the scene got there in 1 min. from time of 911 call according to local reports. I cannot imagine the scene and have serious doubts the victim was not killed nearly instantly. My boss’es wife, a friend we saw the next evening and his daughter (the father was their during the Cho shooting) knew by 5:30pm, so word WAS around campus quickly. This is the 3rd instance of murder nearby. Everyone forgets Morva who killed the hospital security guard and Montgomery Co. deputy. He had been on campus first day of class that year.
I know the officers take this type of thing very, seriously. We had the other incident recently in Pulaski Co. with the Jaccard fellow who killed his neighbor, burned down his house, and shot one of our deputies who had a vest on thank God and is fine. Same swat teams that support Blacksburg support these surrounding areas. We’re in the country and it’s pretty eye opening to have such tragedies in our once quiet community. It’s no longer isolated to specific demographics away from here.
Shows more about what is happening in society than anything about an individual nationality or race. No one is able to deal with pressure and acts out inner rage. Even in this forum it seems.
Psych evals for all asian students....
I know it's never good to generalize, particularly about a specific group of people, so I make these observations only from my own personal experiences.
Over the years I worked with several Asians from Korea, China, Japan and the Philippines. They were all lovely people who would go out of their way to help you if you should need it, but the ones I knew also tended to be rather high strung perfectionists who often seemed on the verge of a minor breakdown, even when the cause of their distress turned out to be somewhat inconsequential in the scheme of things.
However, I guess I should emphasis that since I saw them only in a work environment, that probably had a distinct bearing on the certain behaviors of which I am commenting.
We in VA are fighting every week to allow the right to carry arms on all VA schools.
>>”My roommates were like, ‘Why is it always us?’ she said.<<
1. Because you’re a bunch of cowardly, unarmed defenseless targets; and
2. you continue to support that kind of environment with your tuition payments
That’s why - moron.
A story about an attack and there is no description of the actual attack beyond it being a “disturbance”. What was seen, what was heard by witnesses? Great journalisim.
Yes, I must agree. Chinese culture has existed for centuries as a very peaceful and loving country. There is no evidence of anyone in or from that country showing any disposition towards violence. Yes, it is America's fault.
“high strung perfectionists”
Yes, that was also my experience when I was assigned a girl from Hong Kong as my freshman year college room mate. She was a nice girl and very friendly. When she got a grade that was not perfect, she was very hard on herself. It was a pity. Such a brilliant girl and she only saw her tiny mistake that gave her an A instead of an A+.
Having spent about 8 years in Asia, I think the biggest difference is when western people get angry, it tends to be a gradual process. There is some build up to it. Over here in Asia, it is much more common to see people just snap. I think it is the societal pressures which dictate how they must behave in public which doesn't allow a release... and then when the release finally does happen it tends to be completely out of proportion to the event which triggered it.
It isn't a problem if you are used to it and know what to look out for, but it does get a number of casual visitors to Asia in trouble. I have seen it many times.
I am suprised the are no protest to BAN KNIVES especially those evil featured BUCK KNIVES and BLACK KNIVES....
As a dad with a son at VT....maybe we need to ban Asians? This makes as much sense as disarming the students.
I have surmised that the April 07 attacks could have been stopped in progress with one armed student in that building.
this is further proof that the argument is never about the violence but about guns......
Often, it is the result of good men (standard rules of English apply-females included of course), doing nothing, that allows aberrant behaviors to go unchecked.
Perhaps a student or students at the door(ready to escape)yelling at him to “stop!” would have been the catalyst that interrupted this event. Outcome may not have changed (girl still may have died) but w/o action, there is no reaction (certain laws of physics apply to behaviors too).
No one will allege any responsibility to the girls who fled w/o doing anything but dailing for police, but in a society where the breakdown of civic responsibility is the goal, these sheeple did exactly what they have been taught not get involved, you may get hurt.... Leave the heavy lifting for those trained by the state to do so, etc.
I am not saying that since all others present where female, that if a male or males were present anything different would have occurred, actually I believes that the outcome would have been the same. Sad, Change we can believe in.....
God Bless & MOLON LABE
He was behind her on line with his arms around her neck like a clingy boyfriend, by the time the blood spurted, it was too late for anyone to do anything to help her. The quick thinking manager shepherded the customers and employees into the kitchen, instructing them to call 911. She returned to the dining area to help the girl, but the head was gone. She returned to the kitchen.
See post 20. There was nothing anyone could have done.
Thanks for the added details, gruesome as they are. Maybe this will put to rest the absurd notion among many on this forum that the killing happened in a crowded restaurant and that everybody just sat around and let this guy hack the girl’s head off unopposed.
This part is myth. They were standing... his arms around her from behind in an apparent embrace... knife hidden.
It is the rumour mill created by the police dept and the news services that have fostered the image of “uncaring tech students”. Locals have no respect for the kids and look for opportunities to diss them at every chance.
“It was a side of him we never experienced.”
You mean that they have never experienced him cutting womens heads off?