CHPD Chief: ‘Robbery/Murder A Random Act’

Chapel Hill citizens are expressing through social media their concern for safety after a random act of attempted robbery led to the death of a UNC professor Wednesday afternoon.

Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue says he wants to assure all citizens that the police officers are constantly monitoring the community for suspicious activity to help keep the town as safe as possible.

“We’re proud of the nature of our community’s safety,” Chief Blue says. “It’s something that we all work very hard on as community members. In fact, we all have a responsibility for it, and I’m proud of the way our community rises to that challenge. I will say that this one is particularly troubling because it’s so random—in the middle of the day. All of our sense of safety as community members takes a hit when something so random and unexplained happens, as was the case here. Immediately our reaction as a police department is to increase presence in the neighborhoods and knock on doors and reassure folks. But, we also recognize that grieving and dealing with this kind of shocking circumstance takes some time. We’re scratching our heads a little bit just like everyone else in the community is about just why and how this could happen.”

WCHL’s Ran Northam spoke with Chief Blue

The incident took place just a couple blocks west of the UNC School of Public Health and split of Pittsboro and South Columbia streets. Fifty-nine-year-old Feng Liu, of Greyfield Boulevard in Durham and a professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy was known to take a walk through the community during his lunch break, according to multiple media outlets. Colleagues said it was a way he reenergized himself daily.

Chief Blue says he can’t release any additional information because the investigation is ongoing, however, he says it was a town employee that first arrived to find Liu in need of medical attention. According to the News and Observer, prosecutors said Liu was hit in the head with a rock. He died at UNC Hospitals.

Public Information Lieutenant Josh Mecimore says the list of items stolen from Liu has not yet been released.

UNC Police Chief Jeff McCracken was out of town Friday and unable to be reached.

In a statement released through Alert Carolina, Chief McCracken emphasized how important it is to always be prepared.

“People should have a plan in mind about how to respond in an emergency because it’s very difficult to plan for an emergency when you’re in the middle of one,” he said. “It’s important for people to know beforehand where the exits are, where the fire escapes are, the safest place in the building to be if a tornado is spotted, that kind of thing. Planning decreases panic and increases the chance for a better outcome in an emergency situation.”

How to Be Safe with Fireworks

This July 4th, Chapel Hill is offering a variety of ways to celebrate, notably the fireworks display at Kenan Stadium. The Chapel Hill Fire Department is reminding citizens that the best way to practice good firework safety this summer is leave it to the professionals.

Fire Marshall for the Chapel Hill Fire Department, Todd Iaeger, says that the best way to be safe with fireworks this Independence Day is simply not to use them.

“The obvious answer is not to use them at all,” says Iaeger. “If you are going to use consumer fireworks, people have to be cognizant of the fact that these things emit significant temperatures, and anything around those things can easily ignite. People have to remember too that the statute of North Carolina states that if it leaves the ground, if it moves, if it makes a big bang, it’s illegal.”

Iaeger also says that the use of sparklers is something that might be safest to avoid altogether, especially for child safety.

“To me, it’s a bit counterintuitive,” says Iaeger. “We give small children sparklers and tell them to wave them around. What people don’t understand is that patterned material on those sparklers has the ability to reach to 1,200 plus degrees. So, we’re putting 1,200 plus degrees of a little wire in the hand of a child. If you are going to use those, you’ve got to make sure there is an extreme amount of adult supervision. I believe, and I think statistics prove, that sparklers alone are very dangerous, particularly for smaller children.”

With the celebration events that Chapel Hill has to offer this July 4th, Iaeger says that there is essentially no reason to risk your own fireworks show, when you have one of the best in the country right at your backdoor.

“I want to stress significantly, please, forgo the consumer fireworks, forgo the homemade fireworks. Go to the professional display at Kenan Stadium. It’s ranked as one of the top ten best displays in the country. Take advantage of that. Please leave it in the hands of the professionals.”

For more tips on fire safety, click here.

Black Bear Safety in Hillsborough

With the recent number of black bear sightings throughout Hillsborough, it is important to understand what is causing these bears to behave this way, and what you can do in response.

Head of the Camouflage Coalition Program of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, Richard Hamilton, has experience in black bear management from his 37 years working with the Wildlife Resource Commission. He says that while these black bears popping up in these areas are strange, it is a normal part of black bear biology.

“What you are seeing here in Orange County is a fairly normal occurrence, although it is an unusual place,” says Hamilton. “About the middle of July, the females run off the two-year-old cubs that they have, they finish nursing them. They run them off in preparation to start another family. It is not unusual for these young bears to move long distances in search of a new home range where they can set up a territory.”

Hamilton also cautions that while these bears are not generally dangerous, they need to be left alone, and they will not become permanent residents of the Hillsborough area.

Bears are not inherently dangerous, especially these young bears,” says Hamilton. “The best advice is not to bother these bears, but to be aware of them. Don’t go up to them, try to pet them, take a picture with them, or anything like that. They are not going to attack you or your pets, and they will move on. They are not going to take up residence in Orange County.”

Hillsborough Police has informed WCHL that there have not yet been any further black bear sightings since the last report.

Anyone who sees a bear should still call 911 immediately.

This Month, Make Homes Safe For Seniors

In honor of National Safety Month, senior home care experts at Chapel Hill’s Home Instead Senior Care are offering free home safety checks throughout the month of June.

Stephen Lair of Home Instead Senior Care says it’s extremely important to make sure the home is safe, especially if you or your family member is a senior citizen: 33 percent of seniors’ hospital visits are caused by falls and other accidents in the home, he says, and nearly half of those could have been prevented with some basic safety precautions – precautions as simple as removing loose rugs or making sure railings are secure.

Lair joined Aaron Keck on the WCHL Afternoon News to discuss the issue.

For more information on in-home safety, visit – and for more information on Home Instead Senior Care or to schedule a safety check, visit

Carrboro Police Request Body Cameras, and Car Cams

During the Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting this past Tuesday, Carrboro Police Chief Walter Horton and Captain Chris Atack proposed the idea of both body-worn cameras as well as in-car cameras for Carrboro police.

Chief Horton discussed the benefits that would come from the ability to review the footage collected and provide more reliable information about various criminal situations where eyewitness testimonies can be unreliable.

“These cameras would allow us, when we do receive complaints, to go back and answer that; review what happened, whether good or bad,” informs Chief Horton.

The Policy Director from the ACLU of North Carolina, Sarah Preston, also spoke in support of the police cameras. She reassured the Board on the efforts Carrboro police would make in order to provide accurate information about what they encounter while on patrol, while also encouraging a strong policy to keep it in check.

“The ACLU believes that the police use of body-mounted cameras has the potential to be a win/win,” says Preston, “but really only if you have a solid policy in place.”

The Board will review the proposal made by the Carrboro police and will make a decision about the cameras in the upcoming weeks.

Knife Wielder Committed To UNC Hospitals

Authorities say the man who was arrested for pulling a knife on a UNC student Sunday afternoon has been involuntarily committed to UNC hospitals.

According to the Daily Tar Heel, Chapel Hill resident and 31-year-old UNC graduate, Jesse Alan Kister was committed in UNC Department of Public Safety’s custody on Sunday. When he’s released, he will be charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

Chapel Hill Police and DPS coordinated the search for Kister. CHPD found him in The Chapel of the Cross on East Franklin Street. He was taken to the Chapel Hill Police Station and quickly turned over to DPS since the crime took place on campus.

Kister was found in possession of four knives valued at $100, according to the incident report.

Alert Carolina issued an emergency warning shortly after 4:00 p.m., when the incident first took place. Buildings on campus were locked down—including Carmichael Arena, where the UNC women’s basketball team was playing its first-round NCAA tournament game.

Alert Carolina issued the all-clear at 5:18 p.m. Sunday afternoon. There were no injuries.

The DTH interviewed one of Kister’s former professors who said he only knew Kister in the classroom and didn’t know him on a personal level.

Kister received his bachelor’s degree in information science from UNC in 2005. He also earned a master’s in health care administration in 2008 and information science in 2011.

DTH Article

Four New Flu Deaths In NC Last Week, Three Additional Found

Four people died from the flu last week and three additional flu deaths from previous weeks have been discovered, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

At the last report, 74 people had been killed by the flu in North Carolina this flu season. The total is now up to 81, which is 22 more than last season’s total of 59.

Four deaths is the lowest reported total since the first full week in January showing a continued downward trend since the peak of 12 in late January. This time period also marked just the second week since January 12 that a pediatric death has not been reported.

To see more statistics of flu-reported deaths in North Carolina, click here.

Road Safety In 2014; World Book Night; Home For The Holidays

ORANGE COUNT – The Town of Chapel Hill is kicking off 2014 by asking you to make a resolution to drive with care and pay attention when walking or biking.

Chapel Hill continues to try to be a walk- and bike-friendly town with the promotion of safety at crosswalks and on roadways.

The Town is hosting three crosswalk education outreach sessions for motorist, pedestrians and drivers:

• January 8 – 10 to 11 a.m. on Pittsboro Street near SECU and McCauley Street
• January 22 – 5 to 6 p.m. on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
• January 28 – 8 to 9 a.m. on Franklin Street near Granville Towers and E. Franklin Street at Elizabeth Street (Stroud Hill)


You still have time to register as a Book Giver for World Book Night.

World Book Night is an annual celebration in which people spread the love of reading by going out into their communities and give out paperbacks to light and non-readers.

Each Book Giver receives 20 World Book Night paperbacks to give out, and OrangeCounty’s main library will be one of the pickup sites for the givers. The library will also hold a reception for the givers the week before World Book Night.

World Book Night is April 23 this year. Tens of thousands are expected to participate again.

You have until January 5 to register to be a Book Giver.

For more information, click here.


Take a trip to the Orange County main library and you’ll see the Orange County Animal Services decorations of shelter pets in need of adoption.

Photos of animals that need a new home and some who have already gotten one will be on display until January 11 as part of the “Home for the Holidays” annual campaign to raise awareness for the shelter.

Animal Services is also giving a special deal for adoptions with dogs available for $60 and cats available for $50.

If you want to help Orange County Animal Services—even if it’s just to donate food—you can find more information by clicking here.

Securing Your Home During The Holidays

CHAPEL HILL - The Chapel Hill Police Department is stepping up patrol over the holiday season and warning homeowners and renters to make sure your possessions are secure.

Public Information Sgt. Bryan Walker says it’s even more important now to make sure all doors and windows are locked. And, he says having alarms and signs in the yard can be a major deterrent.

“Alarm systems, even if they aren’t connected to a central alarm company, can deter theft or can deter someone from breaking into your house, they don’t necessarily prevent it, but just seeing the alarm sign in front of the house, some criminals will move on” Walker states.

Toward the end of the holiday season as you take out your trash and recycling, Sgt. Walker says you should be cautious about advertising what new items you have.

“A bad guy can ride by your house, or walk by your house, and see the empty cardboard boxes that you’ve left out in recycling and know the types of items that you have just gotten for Christmas and that are sitting there in your house waiting to be stolen” Walker states.

Some of the ways to hide what new items are in the house are to turn the cardboard boxes inside out or take them to a recycling drop-off.

For more information on ways to keep your home safe in the Holiday Season click here.

Securing Your New Purchases During The Holidays

CHAPEL HILL - Chapel Hill Police are increasing patrol and warning shoppers to always be prepared when returning to your car and home with merchandise.

Public Information Officer Sgt. Bryan Walker says one of easiest ways to avoid a confrontation with a robber on the way to your car is to keep your eyes up and a hand free so you don’t fumble around getting into the car.

“Most bad guys don’t tend to go after someone that appears confident, and that they believe is going to look at them, remember them, and possibly identify them later on” Walker states.

Some citizens choose to carry deterrents like mace with them to feel more comfortable and prepared. Sgt. Walker says tools like mace and pepper spray may not make the attacker stop, and that it is safer to leave your items and get away.

“It’s not going to prevent someone from completing an attack on you or carrying out an attack on you, it’s more designed to allow you to get away” Walker claims.

Some other common thefts that occur especially around the holiday season are thefts from cars.  When items are left in visible sight, your car can become a common target for a theft according to Sgt. Walker.

“Most of the breaking and enterings for vehicles that we have, the item that was taken, whether it be a laptop and a laptop bag, or a purse, or Christmas presents, or this kind of thing, are left out on the seat and obvious where someone can walk by and see them” Walker says.

There are several ways to prevent a person from breaking and entering into your car, and it can be as easy as locking the doors or putting your items in the trunk. Sgt. Walker says most of these thefts are crimes of opportunity.

“They don’t want to go to the effort to break that glass or pry open that car door, not only because it just takes more effort on their part, but it also creates noise and they spend more time in a car if they’re doing that, and a lot of them just aren’t willing to do that, so lock your car” Walker states.

These tips may not prevent a theft from occurring, but they could reduce the chances of it happening.

For more information on how to stay safe during the holidays, click here.