Three Faculty of Color Killed in University of Nevada-Las Vegas Shooting

Las Vegas police stand near the scene of a shooting at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, in Las Vegas. Terrified students and professors cowered in classrooms and dorms as a gunman roamed the floors of a campus building on Wednesday, killing several people and critically wounding another person before dying in a shootout with police. (AP Photo/John Locher)

This post was updated on December 11, 2023 to include the identity of the third shooting victim, Dr. Naoko Takemaru.

Earlier this week, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) campus became the latest site for a type of violence that has become all too disturbingly commonplace: on Wednesday, a mass shooter — 67-year-old Anthony Polito — used a pistol to take the lives of three UNLV community members before he was killed in a shootout with police. Two of those victims have since been identified as UNLV faculty: 39-year-old Assistant Professor of Accounting Dr. Patricia Navarro-Velez, 64-year-old Professor of Management, Entrepreneurship, and Technology Dr. Jerry Cha-Jan Chang, and 69-year-old Associate Professor of Japanese Studies Dr. Naoko Takemaru.

Dr. Chang received his B.S. in Oceanography at National Taiwan Ocean University before obtaining several Masters’ degrees at Central Michigan University, Texas A&M, and the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Chang then continued at the University of Pittsburg to complete his Ph.D. in Management Information Systems. He joined UNLV in 2001 as an Assistant Professor in the College of Business, and received tenure in 2007.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Dr. Navarro-Velez received her B.BA from the University of Puerto Rico before pursuing a Master’s in Accounting from Bowling Green State University. She then went on to pursue her Ph.D. in Accounting from the University of Central Florida. She joined UNLV five years ago, where her work focused on cybersecurity and accounting information.

Both Dr. Chang and Dr. Navarro-Velez had offices in UNLV’s Beam Hall, where the shooter first opened fire on Wednesday. His motives for the shooting are still unknown, however Polito — who had taught for 16 years at the business school at East Carolina University — had recently applied for faculty positions at UNLV. Police said that Polito had recently sent made letters to several university employees across the country and that he had made a list of UNLV community members, although none of his victims were on that list.

Late Friday, police released the identity of the third shooting victim, Dr. Naoko Takemaru. Dr. Takemaru had taught at UNLV for twenty years, and had been instrumental in developing and overseeing the school’s Japanese language program.

“Naoko was a triple-threat artist,” said Dr. Margaret Harp, Associate Professor of French, in a news conference. “She was a professional concert pianist who left that career due to physical disabilities. She embroidered beautifully, creating her own designs. And every holiday season, she brought us her homemade chocolates.”

Police continue to investigate the shooting and its motive. This post will be updated as this story develops.

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