Local News

UNC professor dies after Chapel Hill mugging

Posted July 24, 2014 9:52 a.m. EDT
Updated July 25, 2014 9:02 a.m. EDT

— A professor at the University of North Carolina died Thursday morning after being mugged on a Chapel Hill street during a lunchtime walk Wednesday, police said.

Feng Liu, 59, of Durham, a research professor in UNC's Eshelman School of Pharmacy, was assaulted and robbed at about 1 p.m. Wednesday in a residential area near the intersection of West University Drive and Ransom Street, police said.

"The whole school has been in shock," said Russell Mumper, vice dean of the pharmacy school. "He was beloved. He was a member of a large family of highly respected scientists."

Derick Davis II, 23, of Scots Pine Crossing in Durham, and Troy Arrington Jr., 27, of Johnson Street in Chapel Hill, were arrested overnight in connection with the incident and were charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery.

Davis also is charged with misdemeanor possession of stolen goods. Both men were being held without bond Friday in the Orange County jail.

"It’s just shocking the way this happened and that it was so close to the university," Mumper said. "Many faculty, students and staff enjoy a walk after lunch. Our understanding is that he was doing what he’s done many days – walking around campus community – and then something happened."

Liu received his undergraduate and master's degrees in pharmaceutics science at Shenyang Pharmaceutical University in China and his doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, according to UNC's website. He has worked at UNC for 10 years in the areas of genetics and drug delivery.

Mumper said Liu was conducting cancer research, leading a team of graduate students on projects funded by the National Institutes of Health.

"He was a very outgoing person, very social and a highly respected scientist," Mumper said. "He was truly a scholar and a great colleague."

Counselors were available on campus to help UNC students and faculty cope with the attack on Liu and his death.

"I am heartbroken over this horrible tragedy," Chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement. "I want to assure you that safety and security of students, faculty, staff and visitors on Carolina’s campus and in the surrounding community is my highest priority."

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt also expressed horror over the fatal mugging.

"A safe and secure environment is fundamental to our quality of life in Chapel Hill, and as a community, we must not tolerate such senseless violence," Kleinschmidt said in a statement.