Sophomore, 20, dies at off-campus apartment

Trigger warning: suicide

Sophomore Yangkai Li died at an apartment building near campus on Wednesday afternoon, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Kevin Shollenberger and Dean of Student Life Terry Martinez announced in an email to the community late Wednesday night.

According to the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD), the death was an apparent suicide.

“We are investigating a suicide,” BPD Spokesperson Detective Jeremy Silbert said. “At this time, it appears to be a suicide.”

BPD received word of the incident and responded at 2:28 p.m.

“When police arrived, they found the body of a 20-year-old who appeared to have jumped from the building,” Silbert said. He stated that the address of the building was 105 W. 39th St. The Broadview Apartments complex is listed at that address.

Upon arriving at the scene, police spoke to witnesses, including members of the Baltimore Fire Department (BFD) who had watched the incident occur. Silbert stated that Li did access the roof of the building. Silbert was unaware of the accessibility of the roof or how Li may have gained entry.

Under Maryland state law, an autopsy is required for any death by suicide.

“The body was transported to the Medical Examiner’s Office where it will undergo an autopsy,” Silbert said.

Li was a student in the School of Arts & Sciences majoring in physics. According to his Facebook profile, he was from Guangzhou, China and attended the Woodberry Forest School, a boarding school in Woodberry Forest, Va.

The announcement of the death to the Hopkins community was sent through JHBroadcast at 11:35 p.m. In the email, Shollenberger and Martinez wrote that the BPD determined that there is no reason to suspect Li’s death was the result of a crime, but they did not reveal the circumstances surrounding the death.

“Police, who investigated as a matter of standard procedure, have told us there is no evidence of any crime,” Shollenberger and Martinez wrote.

University Spokesperson and Director of Communications Dennis O’Shea refused to further clarify the circumstances of the death, other than to repeat that no evidence of a crime was found.

O’Shea said that numerous University officials have been involved in the situation.

The email from Shollenberger and Martinez indicated that the school administration has notified Li’s family.

“We have been in contact tonight with members of Yangkai’s family, and are offering them whatever support or assistance the University can provide at this most difficult moment,” Shollenberger and Martinez wrote.

When asked if Li left any sort of note, Silbert stated that BPD has “not received any information about a [suicide] note.”

According to Li’s Facebook profile, he maintained a publically available blog on WordPress, titled, “wsad-yk-pblog,” in which he wrote three entries.

In his first entry, written on Sept. 20, he referred to what appear to be health problems.

“After some period of sleeplessness and anxiety, my mind at least looks like my own again, you know, with some medication. Certainly, I am much less attentive to the outside world now. Honestly I just wanna be a plain, normal guy, you know, but perhaps that’s not the reality, right?” Li wrote. “The most I could do is just to have an everyday life, you see, going to classes, doing homework, get around the campus. Finding joy everyday may not be as easy as it goes… But for me I believe things are getting back where it should be, and that might be just what’s needed.”

Regarding the aftermath of the tragedy, Shollenberger and Martinez called for unity and supportiveness.

“We know that all Yangkai’s friends, classmates and teachers, and anyone who knew him, will be shocked to learn of this great loss to our Johns Hopkins community. We urge you to rely on one another, your families, and University resources for support,” Shollenberger and Martinez wrote.

O’Shea affirmed that he anticipates a memorial service will also take place in the near future.

“I’m sure that when we have a chance to arrange something, there will be a ceremony with his friends,” O’Shea said late Wednesday night. “We’ve only been in touch with his family tonight. Some of them are in China.”

Shollenberger and Martinez encouraged students to seek emotional support as necessary from the Counseling Center, Campus Ministries, Resident Advisors (RAs) and other Residential Life staff.

“Please be especially vigilant in coming days for opportunities to be helpful to and supportive of each other, and to encourage those who could benefit from the resources we’ve listed,” Shollenberger and Martinez wrote.


Editor’s Note: Students can reach the Counseling Center during business hours at 410-516-8278 and through Campus Safety and Security at 410-516-7777 after hours. Note: The Counseling Center’s phone number was previously listed incorrectly.

Emily Herman and Jane Jeffery contributed reporting for this article.

27 Responses to "Sophomore, 20, dies at off-campus apartment"

  1. F*ck You   October 16, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    It’s disgusting that you would dig into his death like this. Show some respect for him. Yangkai was an incredibly nice guy who clearly was in a bad place. To use his death and publicize it like this is a huge slap in the face and it’s honestly disgusting. This article should be taken down immediately. Instead of talking about how troubled he was, mention the great qualities he possessed (none of which you would know since you did not know him). This article is completely insensitive and it’s shameful that this was posted and that the Baltimore Police were contacted in a matter that should be kept personal, private, and confidential.

  2. Julie   October 16, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Our heartfelt condolences to Yangkai Li’s parents and family as well as friends and the JHU Community. Our family will hold you all close in our thoughts during this very difficult time.

  3. Anna Goodridge   October 16, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    This article is disgusting, I agree with F*ck You, it should be taken down immediately. It is entirely inappropriate for you to be publishing these details and digging into facebook and blogs.

  4. Anon   October 16, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Though I certainly understand where Anna and F*ck You are coming from, I think it’s important to discuss suicide and depression. There’s such a stigma associated with mental health problems, and that prevents a lot of people from seeking help.

    As someone who’s felt the same way before, I can really empathize with the excerpt from his blog. It’s also a reminder that people aren’t always as happy as they seem, and that we all have to look out for one another.

    • F*ck You   October 16, 2014 at 6:34 pm

      Anon: I empathize with your own struggle and hope it continues to become easier and more manageable.

      I agree with you – we should be talking about the stigma, about the issue, about warning signs and how we can and should react. However, we should NOT be disclosing his own personal struggles by publicizing them on the web because this was HIS personal struggle. Moreover, my point was that we should respect him – we should be celebrating his life (albeit tragically short) and not painting him in this light. He is not here to defend himself, but he leaves behind family and friends who are heartbroken over this news and making his personal struggle public only makes it harder on all of us.

  5. Condolence from a far place   October 16, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Yangkai, it is with the greatest grief that I heard about your death from the writing teacher we ever studied with together. I am so sorry that I am not able to be with you and even know that you are struggling with such a tough situation. Yes, the news is just a report of death of a student in JHU but I know there will be more people reading this news and see the comments. They will find a lot of good qualities of you that are somewhat ignored by this “objective” college news. You were so kind and clever that you can always catch the missing details in our class. You totally have such a great passion and persistance in learning physics, knowing physics. You are so patient in solving the questions I had in class and willing to hang out with us for every lunch. But I know you are much more that I can say about you. May God be with you and rest in peace.

  6. Hopkins2017   October 16, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    As one of Yangkai’s classmates and close friends, I would like to call out the JHU News-letter on it’s complete lack of sensitivity in covering this story. I agree with Anna: Jack Bartholet, you had no right to pry into Yangkai’s Facebook and personal blog. Events like this remind us of the importance of showing sensitivity and kindness and by ruthlessly magnifying unnecessary details, you make the JHU News-letter look sensationalist and disgusting. You could have mentioned Yangkai’s many good qualities, but instead took quotes from his blog out of context to make him seem crazy. To the JHU News-letter, this may have an exciting breaking news story that draws lots of hits, but to those of us who knew Yangkai, this is a tragic loss of a beautiful person. He was kind, he was smart and he struggled like we all do. You may have gotten all the gory details for this article, but you have lost a lot of readers and followers. I, for one, will never read the JHU News-letter again. Rest in peace Yangkai; you will be missed.

  7. Justin Park   October 16, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    My heart felt prayers go to his family.

  8. beltway   October 16, 2014 at 11:18 pm

    Really sad and tearful when I heard about this today, as college life was like yesterday to me, and deep inside my heart i know i finished hopkins with regrets. as a foreigner myself, there were times i felt despaired and sought help but couldn’t get any. luckily i got through college and went on with my life.

  9. YS   October 17, 2014 at 12:45 am

    First and foremost, Kane, thank you for all the fun you brought us during your two years at wfs. Once a tiger, always a tiger. You are and always will be one of our brothers, and your family is our family. As from our previous conversations I knew things weren’t going well for you, but I never really reached out to you, and for this I feel deeply ashamed. for most of the time you weren’t willing to share your thoughts with us. But we all respect that because you have your own privacy. My deepest condolences go to your family and 愿你来生不再羁绊

  10. SK   October 17, 2014 at 9:17 am

    This is really disgusting. No one should have their problems displayed like this for all to see. I honestly expected better from the News-Letter. Have some journalistic integrity. This article should have shed light on the kind of person Yangkai was and should not have focused on his deeply personal issues. This article should show support for his family, friends and the Hopkins community because of this loss but rather it does the opposite; It builds a divide between Yangkai and the rest of the student body, and the articles sheer tone ostracizes those that have experienced similar things to Yangkai.
    This article should be taken down immediately. I am deeply disappointed in the News-Letter.

  11. 梁彤彬(Bingo)   October 17, 2014 at 11:09 am

    I never thought I would come down to see this day. Yangkai,my dear friend. You act as an important and indispensable role in my three years of junior high school life.In the last winter holiday, we came out to the party together. I still remember your face. God bless you, my friend. We all love you. 如有来生我们还要继续做朋友,再一次谈天说地,说尽有趣事,帮你分担肩上的压力,相互扶持,不需再独自一人,你有我们在身边。愿缘分时我们再重逢,我们将你永记在心中。

  12. Bingo   October 17, 2014 at 11:34 am

    In the same time.I agree with F*ck You. It’s disgusting that JACK BARTHOLET put some of Li’s privacy released. Please show some respect for him ok? You have no care for his family,classmates,friends and teachers feeling? Please stop it.

  13. Hopkins '17   October 17, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    I used to think the News-Letter was professional. Thanks for changing my opinion. As someone who’s suffered from mental health issues in the past, I know that articles like this wouldn’t help suicidal ideation in the slightest. Saying that he jumped off a building and giving the exact address of the building is only going to give people gossip and, those who are suicidal, a method to try. God forbid this starts any cluster suicides. RIP Yangkai, and I’m sorry all of your personal information was plastered in the News-Letter for the whole university and world to see.

  14. Blaming the messenger?!   October 17, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    Shame on those commenters who attacked the journalist. While it is tragic that this young man took his life, he did so in a very public way — jumping off a building — and thus this *is* a newsworthy story. The quotes by the reporter were on a publicly available Facebook page and blog. This was, and is, news and the Newsletter was completely appropriate in publishing it.

  15. Shelley   October 17, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    As a high school classmates of his, I totally agree that the News-Letter should have covered more about Yangkai’s great personality instead of only the details of death. Except for the depression, he is nothing different from you, me, and us. Please respect a beautiful young man, though he’s not an American. Thanks for all of you above, thanks for your support to Yangkai. R.I.P

  16. anonFROMhampden   October 17, 2014 at 9:11 pm

    There is nothing insensitive about thie article. Sadly, it’s a police matter, Mr. Li was an adult, and this information will eventually become public record despite the print media. Also, someone mentioned his “private blog.” There is nothing private about posts that are made in the internet. Facebook, blogs, Pinterst, none of it is private. If nothing else, this tragedy should be used to address the occurances of suicide, which is surprisingly common among college-aged students, and especially among foreign students at prestigious, high-profile schools such as Hopkins.

  17. Shelley   October 17, 2014 at 10:03 pm


  18. Just a Thought   October 17, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    First off, I think it would be appropriate to say how devastating a loss like this is to mr. Li’s family, friends, peers, and the Hopkins community at large. We lost a great and talented person, who going by the comments here, was also kind-hearted, generous, and true.
    At the same time, I must say that I disagree with a lot of the angry comments here reprimanding the writer. While it can be painful, this is a newspaper, and the job is to report the news to its fullest extent, not just to report what can be stomached.
    I wish all friends and family of Mr. Li the best, as I know the loss is probably difficult to comprehend, but at the same time, I think the News-Letter should continue its open, honest, and thorough reporting.

    • Reply   October 18, 2014 at 9:16 am

      Just a thought, I think the best question to ask is why is it the News-letter is covering all the details of the suicide? To what end? How would knowing the information better inform the Hopkins community? True, suicide is an important topic that should be discussed. But what is the purpose of just focusing on the exact method of suicide, the location etc?

      News organizations do this type of reporting all the time. But the difference between CNN, FOX News, BBC etc and the News-letter is the end goal of such organizations. The end goal of CNN etc. is to make money. Period. People could argue that these organization strive to bring hard hitting stories but at the end of the day, they thrive on gossip because that means they get more hits.

      A question I’ve asked is what is the end goal of the News-letter. I thought its purpose was to represent the students, keep students informed of what’s happening on campus and around Baltimore, and keep the Hopkins administration accountable, all very key components of journalistic integrity. At least I thought this until I read this article.

      I personally believe that the Hopkins administration should do more to prevent suicides on campus and I think suicide is a discussion that needs to happen. But this article did not talk about this, nor anything related to the type of person Yangkai was. All it did was focus on unnecessary details that painted an unfortunate picture of a young Hopkins students, one of our own, with the sole aim of perpetuating gossip in order to get hits. Am I saying the details the article talked about were fabricated? No. Am I saying they are not publicly available information? No. What I am saying is we lost one of our dear students, a friend, a family member to something that is pervasive in society and needs to be discussed, and what he deserves is (1) love, remembrance and support form the Hopkins community, (2) A discussion regarding suicide and the role of the Hopkins Administration and (3) support for those that may be going through similar things Yangkai may have went through. I feel that these three points fall in line with the goals of the News-Letter.

      Clearly, I was wrong about this newspaper.

      • Shelley   October 18, 2014 at 10:34 am

        Totally agreed!!!

  19. sc   October 18, 2014 at 3:38 am

    Rest in peace.

  20. old, wise   October 18, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    This is just so tragic and my heart goes out to his family and friends.
    May this devastating event serve as a wake up call to seek help when needed. Your life is precious and worth saving. No matter how much pain you feel right now, you can feel better with appropriate help. If you, a family member or friend are having thoughts of suicide, contact one of the helplines indicated or call Baltimore Crisis Response at (410) 433-5255.

  21. good practice   October 18, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    I hope the News Letter is aware of the Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide. If not, please read this:
    It is important that when we inform people on instances like this, we are sensitive not only to the victim but also to the readers and how this may affect people who truly are struggling.

  22. Hopkins 921   October 18, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    The university should have intervened before this happened. I do not know about the counseling center,but I know that the university medical center definitely needs to improve their service to the Hopkins students. They doctors there are incompetent to treat, and detect the physical problems of those who need help. Instead, when this particular doctors heard my condition, she almost burst into laughter. My friend had a pneumonia and went there several times, only being told to take rest!

    What a irony that the university hospital is #1 in the nation! Should they deserve it if they fail their own people?

    Something to think about before going to bed. Mr. President

  23. Anon2   October 22, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Two days later a young Charles Commons employee took her own life. I, too, am disgusted by the insensitivity displayed in this report. I reiterate what Good Practice said, read it, use it:

  24. Stephen Filippone   November 17, 2014 at 9:27 am

    The News Letter is just answering questions that anybody would want to know. All of this information was already public. I understand people want to be angry at something but focus on the cause of this issue and not on a tiny news article. Or we can just blast this article and wish it never happened.


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