UNLV President: 2 Of Gunman’s Victims Were B-School Faculty

Two of the three people killed in a December 6 shooting spree were members of the UNLV Lee Business School faculty

The gunman who opened fire at the University of Las Vegas-Nevada on December 6 had unsuccessfully sought to join the university’s business school faculty. Two of the three people he killed were faculty members of the business school where he wanted to work.

In a message to the school community posted at the school’s website on December 7, UNLV President Keith E. Whitfield writes that Patricia Navarro-Velez, an assistant professor of accounting, and Cha-Jan “Jerry” Chang, a lecturer of management information systems, were two of the three killed by Anthony Polito, a former long-time professor at East Carolina University. A third victim, also a UNLV faculty member, will be identified following notification of next of kin, Whitfield writes.

A fourth faculty member was injured in the shooting and remains hospitalized, Whitfield writes. Polito was killed by law enforcement as he left Beam Hall, which houses UNLV’s Lee Business School.

GUNMAN WORKED FROM 2018 TO 2022 IN SMALL MBA PROGRAM IN HENDERSON, NEVADA

University of Nevada-Las Vegas President Keith E. Whitfield: “It’s in these trying times that we need to lean on one another for support”

In an announcement two days after the shootings, Whitfield said UNLV students and faculty will not return to campus this semester for in-person classes, and final exams that had been scheduled for the week of Dec. 11 have been canceled.

According to media reports, the 67-year-old Polito had a list of targets at the school and more than 150 rounds of ammunition. The longtime business professor, who was a faculty member at East Carolina for more than 15 years, was living in nearby Henderson, Nevada; authorities say while a motive is still undetermined, Polito had unsuccessfully applied to work at several colleges and universities in Nevada.

Police also said that before his shooting rampage, Polito had mailed letters containing white powder to at least 22 academic institutions. The substance contained in the letters had not been identified as of Thursday (December 7) evening.

The AP reports that Polito had served in an adjunct faculty capacity at Roseman University of Health Sciences in Henderson, teaching two courses in the school’s MBA program from October 2018 to June 2022, but that he left when the program was discontinued.

Polito, who earned a bachelor’s in mathematics/statistics from Radford University, an MBA from Duke Fuqua School of Business, and a Ph.D. in operations management from the University of Georgia Terry College of Business, was known to traffic in conspiracy theories about the Zodiac Killer, who killed five people in Northern California in the 1960s, and about missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, among others.

‘WE ARE ALL HURTING RIGHT NOW’

Calling the tragedy “the most difficult day in the history of our community,” Whitfield writes that the school community is only beginning to “process the grief, loss, anger, and fear associated with Wednesday’s tragic campus shooting.” He urges those who need them to seek counseling services, and he commends emergency responders for their actions to stop the gunman and help in the aftermath of the shootings.

He writes that Dr. Navarro-Velez “had devoted her career to educating the next generation of accountants. She joined UNLV nearly five years ago as a professor of accounting, where she primarily focused on teaching accounting information systems.” Dr. Chang, Whitfied writes, had spent “more than 20 years of his academic career teaching a generation of UNLV Lee Business School students.”

“My heart breaks for the families, friends, and loved ones of Dr. Navarro and Dr. Chang, and for all of the victims of this senseless act of violence that has physically and emotionally affected so many,” Whitfield writes.

“I won’t sugarcoat it. We are all hurting right now. But it’s in these trying times that we need to lean on one another for support. I urge you to check in on each other and utilize counseling services if you need them.”

UNLV PRESIDENT KEITH WHITFIELD’S MESSAGE TO THE UNIVERSITY

DEC. 7, 2023
Dear University Community,

Yesterday was the most difficult day in the history of our university. Words are still hard to come by as we’re only beginning to process the grief, loss, anger, and fear associated with Wednesday’s tragic campus shooting that took the lives of three of our cherished faculty members. Another faculty member remains hospitalized.

We’ve now learned that two of the victims who passed away – Patricia Navarro-Velez and Cha-Jan “Jerry” Chang – were members of our Lee Business School faculty. The third victim, also a UNLV faculty member, will be identified following notification of next of kin.

Dr. Navarro-Velez, an assistant professor of accounting, had devoted her career to educating the next generation of accountants. She joined UNLV nearly five years ago as a professor of accounting, where she primarily focused on teaching accounting information systems.

Dr. Chang was a longtime educator of management information systems, spending more than 20 years of his academic career teaching a generation of UNLV Lee Business School students.

My heart breaks for the families, friends, and loved ones of Dr. Navarro and Dr. Chang, and for all of the victims of this senseless act of violence that has physically and emotionally affected so many.

The incredible outpouring of love, support, and concern directed to UNLV and our students and staff over the last 24 hours provides great comfort during this trying time. While what happened yesterday is in many ways the realization of our greatest fear, we all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for our brave men and women in University Police Services, who along with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the Clark County Fire Department and other first responders answered the call to action swiftly, decisively, and in a manner indicative of their intense training and coordination.

I had the opportunity this morning to speak with and listen to students residing on campus. During this time, it’s especially important for all of us to be there for each other and I am committed to doing all I can for all of our students and staff – to listen, to comfort, and to let them know we care deeply about them and their wellbeing.

What students, employees, and campus visitors endured yesterday during the shooting and the tense aftermath is life-changing. I again thank everyone for taking the call to shelter in place seriously. It was imperative for law enforcement to clear every room in every building on our campus to ensure continued safety, and I’m grateful for the immense courage and cooperation you all showed.

I’m also grateful to Clark County and the community partners operating the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center in the immediate aftermath of yesterday’s incident. They served as a reunification and resource site for many students, staff, and family members and counseling, food, transportation and other services.

I won’t sugarcoat it. We are all hurting right now. But it’s in these trying times that we need to lean on one another for support. I urge you to check in on each other and utilize counseling services if you need them, which are available through CAPS, the Employee Assistance Program, or by contacting the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center at 702-455-AIDE or at facofsouthernnevada.org.

I am in the process of working with the university’s senior leadership team, in coordination with the Nevada System of Higher Education, to determine timing of the remainder of our academic calendar this semester, including finals and commencement. I anticipate sharing an update on Friday.

I encourage everyone to visit unlvstrong.unlv.edu for continuing updates on resources, campus operations, and more in the coming days. We can and will get through this together if we help one another.

Sincerely,

Keith E. Whitfield, Ph.D.
President

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