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3 killed in UNLV shooting were professors on campus

Updated December 8, 2023 - 12:25 am

Rajiv Kishore was traveling Wednesday when a gunman entered UNLV’s Beam Hall and killed three professors, including one who worked out of the third-floor office directly next to Kishore’s.

That victim was 64-year-old Cha Jan “Jerry” Chang, who had taught at the university for more than two decades.

Now Kishore is experiencing survivor’s guilt and wondering, “Why him?”

“I think he was just a gentle and kind person, and I am very sad that we lost him,” Kishore said in a telephone interview late Thursday. “He was not a kind of a person that anyone would wish harm. And he definitely did not deserve to die this way.”

Kishore joined UNLV in 2018 as a professor of information systems and chair of the department of management, entrepreneurship and technology. He served as Chang’s supervisor in UNLV’s Lee Business School and said Chang was one of the few professors who was in his office every day.

Also killed in the shooting was 39-year-old Patricia Navarro Velez, another member of the business school faculty, and a third professor who has not been publicly identified. A fourth victim, who was seriously injured but survived, is also a UNLV professor.

“Yesterday was the most difficult day in the history of our university,” President Keith Whitfield said in a statement Thursday. “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.”

Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill said Anthony Polito, 67, a former professor who had been denied positions at Nevada universities, was armed with a handgun when he came to the Las Vegas campus on Wednesday morning.

Polito, a Henderson resident, was later killed in a shootout with UNLV police outside Beam Hall. McMahill said two of the victims were killed on the building’s third floor, and one was killed on the fourth floor.

Kishore said he did not recognize Polito’s name.

Chang was a professor of management information systems and lived in Henderson. Navarro Velez was an assistant professor of accounting and lived in Las Vegas.

McMahill said the surviving shooting victim is a 38-year-old visiting professor. He was hospitalized at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center. Police believe he was on the fifth floor of Beam Hall when he was shot.

Mother of four

Navarro Velez was a mother of four, said Dalmid Correa, her former professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Ponce. Navarro Velez was from Puerto Rico, according to Correa, who said she had communicated with the woman’s family.

In his statement, Whitfield said 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,” he wrote.

According to UNLV’s website, Navarro Velez’s recent research focused on cybersecurity and data analytics.

She received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Puerto Rico at Ponce, and went on to earn her master’s degree from Ohio’s Bowling Green State University and her doctorate from the University of Central Florida.

Navarro Velez was a recipient of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ fellowship for minority doctoral students and the KPMG Foundation’s minority doctoral students scholarship, according to UNLV’s website. Before going into academia, Navarro Velez was a risk assurance manager in Puerto Rico.

Correa said she was proud of Navarro Velez, and remembered her as an “excellent student” who always had a smile on her face while she attended classes in Puerto Rico. While at the university, Navarro Velez won first place in a national competition of accounting students, Correa said.

“I remember Patricia as an example for the students, an example for accounting professionals,” Correa told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

‘Always even-keel’

Kishore said he tried to account for all of his colleagues on Wednesday, even while traveling, but no one had news about Chang, who had never owned a cellphone. Kishore said Chang believed a cellphone would prevent him from thinking deeply.

“He wants to be able to plan, and he wants to be able to think and contemplate,” Kishore explained.

Kishore last saw his colleague on Tuesday, when they sat next to each other at the department’s holiday luncheon at Bahama Breeze restaurant.

Chang, who told Kishore he ate only one meal a day, was enjoying a steak.

“I truly never saw him perturbed,” Kishore recalled. “He was always even-keel, always smiling.”

Kishore said Chang is survived by a wife, an adult daughter and an adult son.

On Thursday morning, a woman answering a call at a number associated with Chang’s property in public records said Chang had been shot and killed. She declined to discuss Chang or the shooting.

Chang had worked at UNLV since 2001, holding his latest professor title since 2014, according to the university.

He received degrees from National Taiwan Ocean University, Central Michigan University, Texas A&M University and the University of Pittsburgh, according to his resume posted to UNLV’s website.

“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,” Whitfield wrote in his statement.

Audrey Chang, who identified herself as Jerry Chang’s daughter in a direct message sent through social media, declined to comment about her father.

According to the Clark County coroner’s office, Chang died from a gunshot wound to the head, and Navarro Velez died from multiple gunshot wounds.

“The third victim has been identified and the Clark County Office of the Coroner/Medical Examiner is working to identify the Legal Next of Kin,” the county said in a statement Thursday.

Contact Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com. Follow @CarriGeer on X. Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on X. Review-Journal digital producer Rosana Romero and staff writer Katelyn Newberg contributed to this report.

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