2008_04_minghuiyu.jpgA 13-year-old boy was arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter in the Friday night death of a Columbia graduate student. According to a Daily News source, the boy bragged to his 15-year-old friend before chasing Ming-Hui Yu, "Look what I do to this one."

The teen and his friends apparently hassled Yu, a 24-year-old Ph.D. student in statistics and a teaching fellow, at the median at Broadway and 122nd Street. The Post reports one "punched him in the face, while the other kept watch." (The Daily News adds that the police are "don't believe it was robbery. It was some sort of altercation."--Yu still had his wallet and backpack.) In an attempt to escape them, Yu ran into the street, where he was hit by a Jeep. Yu later died of his injuries.

The 13-year-old's aunt said, as he was led out of the precinct, "It was a mistake," while another relative said, "pray for him." The police are still looking for his accomplice, as well as examining surveillance footage from the area. Zhou Changyia, one of Yu's roommates told the Post, "They're just kids. It's hard to say what to do with them."

Yu had just walked his girlfriend home to her 123rd Street and Broadway apartment; Chao Sun told reporters, as friends gathered at a memorial outside Yu's apartment on 121st Street, "He’s a really nice guy, and he’s worried about others. I can’t imagine he would do anything to harm other people." Yu had graduated from the University of Science and Technology of China and was the public relations head of Columbia University's Chinese Students and Scholars Association. The Chinese Consulate is working to help his parents travel to NY.

Columbia president Lee Bollinger issued a statement, mourning Yu's loss and refers to Columbia-area safety (Morningside Heights is safe, but "it is nevertheless imperative that we all take reasonable precautions appropriate to life in a large metropolitan environment"). Read it below:

Dear Members of the Columbia Community:

I am writing to share very sad news about one of our graduate students.

Last night a PhD student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Minghui Yu, was struck by an automobile two blocks north of our main campus at 122nd Street and Broadway while he was apparently fleeing an attempted robbery on the sidewalk. The student was taken to St. Luke's Hospital but passed away as a result of the severe injuries he had sustained.

An NYPD investigation is underway and is being supported by the University's Department of Public Safety which, last night following university procedures, circulated an alert to student affairs deans at all of our schools with information about possible suspects in the attempted robbery.

As a community we mourn the loss of one of our members, and especially of a young person with much to look forward to in a life of promise. The University's counseling services are available to anyone who feels he or she could benefit from expert support in response to this deeply sad event. Please do not hesitate to visit Counseling and Psychological Services on the 8th floor of Lerner Hall today from 1-5 p.m., or call at any time 212-854-2878 if you feel such assistance would be helpful to you.

While incidents of crime have been significantly reduced in New York over recent decades, and the area of Morningside Heights is within one of the safest precincts in the city, it is nevertheless imperative that we all take reasonable precautions appropriate to life in a large metropolitan environment. Our Department of Public Safety has worked closely with the NYPD in safeguarding members of our University Community and offers a range of services – including safety escorts, evening shuttle buses and directed patrols – that help ensure students, faculty and staff can both be, and feel, secure while living, studying and working here. We constantly review and seek to improve public safety operations. If you would like more information on these services, go to: www.columbia.edu/cu/publicsafety, or call 212-854-2797.

The family of the graduate student has been notified. We will begin plans for a memorial event on campus. For today, I know we are united as a community in mourning the tragic loss of a young life.

Lee C. Bollinger