A Yale University graduate student with Chicago roots was shot to death Saturday night in Connecticut just blocks from the Ivy League school.
Kevin Jiang, 26, was driving in New Haven when he was shot and killed. Police said the shooter targeted Jiang. Investigators were looking into whether he might have been involved in a car accident before the shooting but did not provide additional details.
New Haven police on Wednesday identified Quinxuan Pan, 29, as a person of interest in the fatal shooting of Jiang. Pan, who’s from Massachusetts and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is considered “armed and dangerous,” the New Haven Police Department said in a statement shared to Facebook.
Jiang attended St. Therese Chinese Catholic School in Chinatown and graduated from Maine South High School in Park Ridge.
“He didn’t come from a whole lot, it was just him and his mom,” said Eric Novak, one of his high school teachers. “He worked after school in a telemarketing job and then went fishing after work and he would show us pictures and be like ‘This is what I caught and I made it for my mom for dinner.”
Jiang would return to class drenched in sweat from physical education when a lot of classmates put in minimal effort, Novak recalled.
“There wasn’t a wasted second in his day. He always wanted to be something extraordinary. He was a self-made person, there’s no doubt about that. Whatever he did to earn his degrees, he definitely did it on his own because he was a smart, smart kid, for sure,” said Novak.
Jiang’s family eventually moved from Chicago to Washington state, and Jiang graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in environmental studies. He was a second-year student in the master’s program at Yale School of the Environment.
According to Yale, Jiang, a dedicated Christian, became engaged to his girlfriend a week before his death. The two met on a church retreat.
Jiang, who was days from his 27th birthday, was a veteran of the U.S. Army, where he served as a tank operator. At the time of his death, Jiang was a member of the Army National Guard who’d recently been called up to assist with COVID-19 relief efforts in Connecticut, according to the university.
Services for Jiang were to be announced this week.
Mark Brunke was a youth pastor at the former Chinese Bible Church of Oak Park when he came to know Jiang and his mother, who were members of the congregation.
“Kevin was always all-in on anything he did, he sort of dialed everything up to 11 whether it was sports or piano or whatever,” Brunke said.
“He didn’t have the perfect nuclear family and had some issues to overcome, a bit of a temper. But when he started coming to church, he really believed in God and Jesus and you could see him leaving his bad habits behind and becoming a kinder person,” Brunke said.
“God had turned his life around. I talked to him just before he proposed to his girlfriend — he was just over the moon about her.”
In an online tribute released by Yale, Jiang’s academic adviser, Gabe Benoit, said of Jiang: “Looking back, in my 30 years of teaching, he’s the single most effective student I ever had. ... He was such a bright light to be extinguished so early.”
Contributing: Madeline Kenney