Connecticut police say slain Yale grad student may have been targeted; search continues for alleged killer

Army veteran Kevin Jiang was days away from his 27th birthday and had gotten engaged a week before fatal shooting

Connecticut authorities continue to investigate the fatal shooting of a 26-year-old Army veteran and Yale University graduate student reportedly killed in the street Saturday evening outside his vehicle.

Mystery has surrounded the death of Kevin Jiang, who was shot on Lawrence Street, between Nicoll Street and Nash Street, in New Haven's East Rock neighborhood around 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Neighbors reported hearing multiple gunshots before the New Haven Police Department and Fire Department responded to the scene.

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The New Haven Police Department provided an update Monday morning, explaining that investigators received information suggesting that Jiang may have been targeted -- and the shooting may not have been a random incident. 

"We are looking into whether or not Mr. Jiang was actually targeted during this incident," New Haven Police Chief Otoniel Reyes said at a press conference Monday. "We have developed information suggesting that this incident may not have been a random act and that he was in fact targeted. That being said, it is too early in the investigation to establish any motive whatsoever."

First responders who arrived at the scene Saturday found Jiang's body lying on the road next to his Prius, which had rear-end damage, and police are investigating whether a vehicle crash happened immediately before the shooting, the New Haven Independent reported. He was pronounced dead at the scene, Reyes said. So far, no suspects or arrests have been announced, and police are working to investigate leads regarding another vehicle that fled the scene. 

Jiang, who most recently resided in West New Haven, had gotten engaged just a week before. He was a graduate student at the Yale School of the Environment, as a member of the class of 2022, and regularly volunteered at Trinity Baptist Church.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Jiang was also a military veteran and served as a tank operator for the U.S. Army. He was a member of the Army National Guard at the time of his death, the newspaper reported. 

Saturday’s incident marked the sixth homicide in New Haven so far this year.

Jiang would have celebrated his 27th birthday next week, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said.

Kevin Jiang, 26, was a graduate student at the Yale School of the Environment, as a member of the class of 2022. 

Kevin Jiang, 26, was a graduate student at the Yale School of the Environment, as a member of the class of 2022.  (Yale University Police Department)

"Over the weekend we experienced multiple violent acts in our community, including those involving a New Haven Public Schools teacher, a New Haven Public Schools administrator, and a graduate student at Yale. I am deeply saddened that we lost Yale School of Environment student Kevin Jiang last night to gun violence," Elicker said in a statement provided to Fox 61.

He continued, "To those who continue to perpetrate these crimes: you undermine the safety of our residents and yourselves. You continue to promote fear for our safety in our everyday lives. We, as a community, will not stand for this and we will be relentless in efforts to provide justice for all of the victims, their families and loved ones. Addressing and eradicating gun violence takes serious action both in the short-term and the long-term—and the City of New Haven is committed to that."

Trinity Baptist Pastor Greg Hendrickson told the New Haven Independent that he had just agreed earlier in the week to officiate Jiang’s wedding, but, "now, we will be officiating his funeral instead."

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"As a community, we are grieving deeply right now. But Kevin lived by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in his promise of the resurrection from the dead," Hendrickson said. "Though his earthly life was cut short, he used the time that he had on earth to the fullest. His example inspires us to do the same."

Jiang’s fiancée, a student in a different department at Yale University, lives in Goatville and has so far not commented publicly. Jiang’s mother, who relocated from the Seattle-area to live with her son during graduate school, also has not publicly addressed the shooting. 

In his own statement released Sunday to announce Jiang’s death, Yale University President Peter Salovey said, "The New Haven Police Department is treating this incident as a homicide and is actively working on apprehending the person or people responsible."

"New Haven, Connecticut, USA - June 1, 2011: A view of the Yale campus, with the entrance to the renowned Sterling Library at the left. This is one of the largest research libraries in the United States, and is noted for its "gothic revival architecture."

"New Haven, Connecticut, USA - June 1, 2011: A view of the Yale campus, with the entrance to the renowned Sterling Library at the left. This is one of the largest research libraries in the United States, and is noted for its "gothic revival architecture."

"My office has been in close contact with members of Kevin’s family. I wish to convey to them and to all others who loved Kevin my sincere condolences," the statement continued. "Kevin was an extraordinary young man; the School of the Environment will be holding a community gathering later today and will be planning additional remembrance events that will be posted on the school’s website.

Salovey said he had been in touch with the mayor throughout the night and asked Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins "to update you later today on the investigation and measures we and the city are taking to protect the members of our shared community."

"We will continue to focus on the security and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and neighbors," he added, encouraging anyone struggling to process the tragedy to reach out to Yale Mental Health & Counseling or the chaplain’s office for assistance.

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New Haven Police Department Major Crimes detectives are continuing to investigate the homicide. Anyone with information is asked to contact the New Haven Police Department at 203-946-6304. Callers may remain anonymous or submit tips anonymously by calling 1-866-888-TIPS (1-866-888-8477), police said.