Sophomore, 20, dies at off-campus apartment

By JACK BARTHOLET | October 16, 2014

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.

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