Hundreds of University of Chicago students on Tuesday protested the recent shooting death of recent graduate Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng and demanded more safety measures be put in place for university attendees.
Protesters carried signs that read, “We are here to learn, not to die,” and, “Stop gun violence,” as FOX 32 Chicago first reported.
“We are working and studying in a world class university and we cannot guarantee everyone’s safety at least? This is insane. We have to make changes,” UChicago staff member Xiaorong Wang told the outlet.
Zheng, a 24-year-old graduate of the university’s statistics master’s program, was fatally shot on Tuesday, Nov. 9, on the University of Chicago campus just before 2 p.m. CT, according to the Chicago Police Department.
Zheng, who was born in China, is remembered by fellow students and professors as a passionate learner and generous friend, according to UChicago News. A memorial service for the recent graduate will be held on campus Thursday.
“He aspired to solve important problems facing our society, and to ‘help people to help more people,'” Mei Wang, senior instructional professor at UChicago and director of the master’s program in statistics, said of the former student. “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.”
Zheng was “on the sidewalk” when suspect Alton Spann, 19, pulled up to the victim in his vehicle, exited the vehicle and demanded Zheng hand over his personal belongings. Spann then shot Zheng, who was transported to the University of Chicago Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown announced on Nov. 12 that authorities had taken Spann into police custody. Spann is charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and two counts of unlawful use of a weapon.
Brown said Spann went to a pawn shop after shooting Zheng and exchanged the electronics he stole from the victim for $100.
“$100 for Mr. Zheng’s and his family’s grief. It just shows the brazenness…and what must be the consequences to these violent offenders,” Brown said, adding that Spann had previously been in possession of guns. “…A violent offender in possession of a gun is a precursor to violence, and yet the consequences for those types of crimes is lacking.”
Zheng’s death came about five months after another 20-year-old University of Chicago student, Max Lewis, was fatally shot on July 1 while commuting on the city’s Green Line from his internship at an investment firm in downtown Chicago, as the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
While sitting inside the train, a bullet pierced the window and struck the back of his neck at the 51st Street/Washington Park Station.
Murders in Chicago have increased 3% year over year and 59% since 2019. Shootings have increased 10% year over year and 67% since 2019. Chicago police are on track to recover 12,000 guns this year and have so far cleared 315 murder cases, Brown said.
Fox News’ Nikolas Lanum contributed to this report.