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18-year-old charged with fatal shooting of Chinese university student in Chicago

Following the shooting, university President Paul Alivisatos urged police and city officials to treat the city's rising violence with the same urgency as a "public health crisis."

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Hannah Nightingale Washington DC
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Police on Friday announced that they have charged an 18-year-old with murder in the fatal shooting of a Chinese student near the campus of University of Chicago last week.

Deputy Chief of Detectives Rahman Muhammad said that Shaoxiong "Dennis" Zheng, 24, was standing on a Hyde Park neighborhood sidewalk on November 9, when Alton Spann of Chicago approached the Zheng and robbed him at gunpoint before shooting him in the torso and fleeing, according to ABC News.

Surveillance cameras reportedly captured Spann speeding away in a black Ford Mustang.

Police were able to track the vehicle using footage from the city's surveillance camera system, private residences, and the school's cameras, where they later determined that the car had been stolen in the suburb of Markham on November 3.

Spann was spotted on the North Side of Chicago on November 10, carrying two guns and a key FOB that belonged to the Mustang, Muhammad said.

"The firearms was tested by the CPD lab and (one of them) was confirmed to be the gun used to kill Mr. Zheng," he stated.

Police were also able to recover a video of Spann selling some of Zheng's belongings at a cellphone store.

Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said at a news conference on Friday that Spann has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and two counts of unlawful use of a weapon.

Following the shooting, university President Paul Alivisatos urged police and city officials to treat the city's rising violence with the same urgency as a "public health crisis," according to ABC News.

"The violence afflicting Chicago is on the same scale as a public health crisis and demands a commensurate response," and that the university has been in contact with the city officials and police, said Alivisatos.

In a UChicago News article devoted to the remembrance of Zheng, students and staff remembered him as being a "caring friend," a "passionate student," and a "curious scholar."

"In addition to being a University alum, he was a loving son and caring friend to many in our community and many more around the world," said Provost Ka Yee C. Lee.

"He aspired to solve important problems facing our society, and to 'help people to help more people,'" said Mei Wang, senior instructional professor at UChicago and director of the master's program in statistics.

"He was a passionate student and a curious scholar. He loved the atmosphere of the University—the way that everyone in the department was equally open to debating processes of reasoning and statistical methods."

"He wanted to savor every moment of life," said his girlfriend, Shirley Cai, a graduate student in political science. "The sky, the sunset, the stars—he just wanted to keep it. Meeting him was one of the most fortunate things that has ever happened to me. I was so lucky to be with him. He was the kind of person I want to be."

According to WBBM-TV, Zheng is the third University of Chicago student to be killed this year. Zheng had previously graduated from the University of Hong Kong in 2019, and earned his masters degree in statistics from the University of Chicago last summer.

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