Bing Liu, a University of Pittsburgh research assistant professor studying COVID-19, was found shot and killed in his townhouse on Saturday in what was apparently a murder-suicide, authorities say.
Officials found Liu in his home in Ross Township, Pennsylvania, with gunshot wounds to his torso, neck, and head. Local police say they believe a second man, software architect Hao Gu, 46, who was found dead in his car, may have shot Liu before shooting himself.
According to a statement issued by the university’s Department of Computational and Systems Biology, Liu was “on the verge of making very significant findings toward understanding the cellular mechanisms that underlie SARS-CoV-2 infections and the cellular basis of the following complications.” Dr Ivet Bahar, the head of the Computational and Systems Biology Department, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Liu “was just starting to obtain interesting results” in his work on the virus.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, conspiracy theorists (who have been hard at work sowing misinformation during the pandemic) have already latched onto Liu’s passing, with some incorrectly linking him to a team at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine that had been working on a COVID-19 vaccine candidate. In a statement, however, Ross police Sgt. Brian Kohlhepp said that they found “zero evidence that this tragic events has anything to do with employment at the University of Pittsburgh, any work being conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, and the current health crisis affecting the United States and the world.”
Police suggested that Liu’s death may have resulted from “a lengthy dispute regarding an intimate partner,” though they did not reveal any additional details about the relationship between him and Gu.