Light & Verity

Campus mourns murdered student

Kevin Jiang '21MESc was a veteran and a lover of nature.

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Kevin Jiang ’21MESc, who was killed in February, is remembered for his optimism and resilience. View full image

On a sunny Saturday in February, Kevin Jiang ’21MESc, a student at the School of the Environment, went ice fishing at Connecticut’s Silver Lake. After hours of telling riddles and sharing stories with his fiancée—Zion Perry ’26PhD—and his friend Shane Sebastiao ’19MAM, Jiang pulled up a wriggling pickerel from a hole in the ice.  

“He pointed out how beautiful the fish’s scales were,” says Sebastiao. “He said, ‘Look at how the sun is reflecting off of these scales.’ Kevin could always find beauty in the mundane. He would be walking down the street and notice beautiful things in the dirt or in a bush.”

Hours after that fishing trip, in the evening of February 6, Jiang was shot and killed near the corner of Nash and Lawrence in New Haven’s East Rock neighborhood. He was 26.

In late February, police obtained a warrant for the arrest of 29-year-old Qinxuan Pan, charging him with Jiang’s murder. Pan had been a graduate student at MIT, where Jiang’s fiancée studied as an undergraduate. Police in Mansfield, Massachusetts, say that Pan took a car from a dealership there for a test drive the morning of the murder and didn’t return it. Shortly after the murder, police in North Haven, Connecticut, helped Pan call a tow truck when the vehicle got a flat tire there. As of late March, Pan remained at large.

Jiang is remembered as an outgoing student and friend, a US Army veteran and National Guard reservist active in his church. Greg Hendrickson ’03, co-pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in New Haven, says that Jiang was “keen to invite others with him, whether it was to go fishing or go to church or share a meal. That was one of his gifts—the joy of inviting others to come along to experience what he had learned to enjoy.”

That’s how Sebastiao ended up ice fishing that Saturday. “I jumped at his enthusiasm,” Sebastiao says.

Fishing was only one of Jiang’s outdoor hobbies. Jiang and Perry connected over a shared love of nature in their yearlong relationship. Jiang loved “fishing, hiking, visiting national parks, gardening . . . being in God’s creation,” Perry told the New Haven Independent.

Mary Evelyn Tucker, senior lecturer and codirector of Yale’s Forum on Religion and Ecology, remembers a garden Jiang had planted as a final project last spring. “When a storm came and washed everything away, he redid everything, and by May he had things growing again,” Tucker says. “He had such resilience and a kind of optimism about him.”

Jiang assisted his academic adviser, Professor Gaboury Benoit ’78, in research analyzing storm waste and testing mercury levels in fish. “He’s the single most effective student I ever had,” Benoit said during a February 8 online vigil. “He was such a bright light to be extinguished so early.”

Some 700 people attended the environment school’s vigil. In April, students plan to plant a tree at Beaver Pond Park in Jiang’s memory.
 

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