Two days after ChenWei Guo, a student at the University of Utah, was shot and killed near Red Butte Canyon on the evening of Oct. 30, the Asian American Student Association at the U held a candlelight vigil in his memory.
The shooting led police to place housing, the medical complex and other parts of campus on lockdown until early the next morning as both local and federal law enforcement from throughout the Salt Lake Valley searched the area. Class was canceled out of respect for Guo the following day, and flags are being flown at half-staff until Friday, Nov. 3.
Hundreds of students, faculty and friends gathered outside of the Marriott Library as the sun set Wednesday to light candles, show support for one another and honor Guo. Many people were crying, holding flowers and each other tightly.
“What happened was violent and unjustified,” said Taylor Checketts, a member of the Asian American Student Association, to the crowd.
One of Guo’s close friends, Daniel Guo, was then handed a megaphone and he reflected on his memories of Guo. Daniel told the group about the time that Guo, one of his groomsmen, had parked illegally in a hurry to get to the wedding, resulting in his car getting towed and him missing the reception.
“I’m sure that some or most of you have been touched by ChenWei in some way in your life,” he said. “He had so many trials and tribulations, but he always kept the same smile on his face that touched everyone around him. He was a great friend. He was always there for me, whenever I called him, even if it was midnight or if he was in class, he’d text me back. He was always there when I needed help.”
Guo was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he served a mission in the U.S. A member of the crowd stepped forward and asked if he could say a prayer. Checketts agreed, and the crowd bowed their heads as one was said on behalf of Guo and his family.
The members of the crowd then lit their candles and walked together quietly, in a long line, from library plaza to the stairs of the John R. Park Building. In pairs of two, the crowd placed their candles, flowers and notes on the steps, surrounding a framed photo of Guo. The line stretched about 100 yards from the staircase to the campus store.
A GoFundMe page has been started to collect donations for a foundation in honor of Guo. Some of Guo’s friends, including Elena Jin, asked that thoughts, scriptures, condolences and personal memories of Guo be posted on his Facebook page or on the GoFundMe site, as they will be compiled, translated and shared with his parents in China. As websites like GoFundMe and Facebook are not accessible in China, Jin is looking for individuals who have or know of someone who has website design skills in order to create a similar website where his parents can view the messages.