Chicago Approaching 700 Homicides for 2021, Chinese College Student Latest Victim

A 24-year-old University of Chicago Chinese student died after being shot during an armed robbery as the city's violence continues to rise, the Associated Press reported.

Shaoxiong "Dennis" Zheng was standing on a residential sidewalk in the Hyde Park neighborhood on Tuesday afternoon when a witness said a gunman emerged from a car and appeared to struggle with Zheng before a shot went off.

The gunman returned to the car and fled. Zheng was pronounced dead at the University of Chicago Medical Center. No arrests have been made.

Chicago's violence has drastically risen in the past two years. So far there have been 698 homicides compared to 680 at the same time last year. By this time in 2019 the city reported 442 homicides, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

There have been five slayings in Hyde Park so far this year compared with none at the same time in 2020, the Sun-Times reported.

University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos said in a statement Wednesday that the university community and local residents "see a clear and urgent need to strengthen public safety."

During a Wednesday vigil at the site where Zheng was shot, Xi Cheng, a friend who had known him for six months, remembered him as a "really positive, nice person."

The Chinese American Association of Greater Chicago has started an online memorial fundraiser to help cover travel and legal expenses for Zheng's family.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

University of Chicago, Murder, Violence
Students and friends of Shaoxiong "Dennis" Zheng stop by a memorial on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021 in Chicago. Police say Zheng was fatally shot while on the sidewalk shortly before 2 p.m. Tuesday. The slaying of the Chinese college student fatally shot during an armed robbery near the University of Chicago campus prompted the school's president to call for city officials to treat violence as a “public health crisis.” Madeline Kenney/Chicago Sun-Times/AP Photo

Cheng, 22, choked up as she recalled Zheng and his love for sports, especially table tennis, and photography. "May he rest in peace," she said.

"I can feel he loves Chicago so much," Cheng said. "I can feel he really enjoyed here and loves this (city) so it's really tragic to hear."

The University of Chicago's president is urging city officials and police to treat Chicago's rising violence as a "public health crisis" following the fatal shooting of a Chinese student during an armed robbery near campus.

"The violence afflicting Chicago is on the same scale as a public health crisis and demands a commensurate response," Alivisatos said in the statement that said the school has been in contact with the mayor's office, Chicago police, local alderman and others.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot promised Wednesday to meet with police and community leaders "to determine concrete, tangible measures (that) can be taken to prevent tragedies such as these in the future" but no specifics have yet been announced.

Zheng, who graduated from the University of Hong Kong in 2019 and earned his master's degree in statistics from the University of Chicago last summer, was the third University of Chicago student killed this year, WBBM-TV reported.

In January, Yiran Fan, a 30-year-old Ph.D. student who was a native of Beijing, was randomly killed while sitting in a car in a parking garage — the first of seven people, from Chicago to Evanston, shot by a gunman, police said. Fan and four other people died.

And in July, Max Lewis, 20, a third-year student who had just accepted an investment banking offer, was fatally shot by a stray bullet on the Chicago Transit Authority Green Line as he was riding home from his summer internship in downtown Chicago.

University of Chicago, Murder, Violence
Mourners gather for a silent vigil in memory of a recent University of Chicago graduate who was fatally shot, in the Hyde Park neighborhood Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Chicago. Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng, 24, was standing on the sidewalk in a residential area just north of campus Tuesday afternoon when witnesses said a gunman stepped from a car and Zheng appeared to struggle with the robber before a shot went off. John J. Kim /Chicago Tribune/AP Photo