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Duke Graduate Student Shot to Death

Posted January 19, 2008

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— A graduate student was found shot to death late Friday night, Duke University police said.

Durham police officers went to the Anderson Apartments at 1600 Anderson St. at about 11:30 p.m. to check on a report of an injured man. Inside apartment C-2, they found a deceased man with gunshot wounds.

Friends and colleagues identified the victim as Abhijit Mahato, 29, a Ph.D. engineering candidate from India, university officials said Saturday afternoon.

“I'm just curious about why did it happen?” neighbor Howard Haskins said.

Durham Police said they do not yet have a motive for the fatal shooting.

Neighbors at the Anderson Apartments said it was a quiet complex with a mixture of longtime residents and students. They said crime – especially violent crime – had not ever been a problem.

“I don't know what it could be, especially for grad students. It is kind of, sort of, way out there. Those types of people, you never heard much out of them,” neighbor Michael Jordan said.

Mahato, originally from Tatangar, India, was studying for an engineering doctorate degree on computational mechanics at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. He was in his second year.

Larry Moneta, Duke’s vice president for student affairs, said the university was reaching out to Mahato’s friends and his family in India, as well as to Indian and other international students on campus. It is offering counseling services and has begun considering appropriate ways of commemorating Mahato’s life.

“This is a tragic circumstance, and we are doing everything possible to assist those who may be affected by it,” Moneta said.

At a meeting late Saturday morning, Mahato’s adviser, engineering professor Tod Laursen, met with his lab team to talk about Mahato, whom he described as intellectually curious, kind and outgoing.

“He made friends very easily and always had a smile on his face,” Laursen said. “Our research team was particularly close to Abhijit. He was very well read in both poetry and literature, and enjoyed conversation with others about what they were reading.”

“They took some time to remember him and to comment on how gentle and sweet and intelligent and thoughtful a poet and scientist, a very remarkable blend that will be sorely missed,” Moneta said.

Duke University administrators are working with police to help get Mahato's body returned to his family in India.

Anyone with information about the shooting was asked to call Sgt. Jack Cates at 919-560-4440, Duke police at 919-684-2444 or Durham CrimeStoppers at 919-683-1200. CrimeStoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases, and callers never have to identify themselves.

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