A Lebanese cancer expert gunned down by ex-wife at US university campus, update

Raja Fayad, a graduate director and expert in colon cancer, was gunned down at the University of South Carolina's Public Health Research Center
Raja Fayad, a graduate director and expert in colon cancer, was gunned down at the University of South Carolina’s Public Health Research Center

A Lebanese cancer researcher has been identified as the victim of a murder suicide on the University of South Carolina’s campus.

Raja Fayad, a graduate director and expert in colon cancer, was gunned down at the Public Health Research Center in the first multiple shooting on the site in 30 years.

Neighbors said the 45-year-old, who completed his MD in Syria before moving to the United States, recently ended a ‘stormy relationship’ with a woman he was living with, described as his girlfriend.

Fathi Elsahli told The State the situation had deteriorated when he moved out to be with another woman.

Fayad and his ex are believed to have moved from Chicago, where Fayad had been teaching. She settled in August after getting a job, but then lost it, the paper reported.

Helena Sanford, who lives next door, said the Fayad’s ex girlfriend told her that Internet service and electricity had been cut off at the home.

She told the paper: ‘It’s devastating. It’s a terrible waste of life.’

Fayad came to USC in 2008 from the University of Illinois-Chicago as an associate professor in the Arnold School of Public Health, according to his online biographical information. He earned his MD at Aleppo University School of Medicine in Syria in 1995.

Many students rated Fayad highly before his death, suggesting he made Exercise Science 223, a anatomy and physiology course, bearable.

On the anonymous review site Rate My Professor Fayad earned a 4.7 on a 5.0 scale. Some of the comments included were: ‘Dr. Fayad is the man. He is super laid back and loves the material he teaches. … One of the best professors I’ve had.

Another read: ‘Take this professor. He is awesome! He knows what he is teaching and seems interested in his research.’

Much of the campus remained on a complete lockdown in the aftermath of the shooting even though police said danger from the ‘very isolated’ incident was over.

A perimeter was set up around the public health building, where police carrying AR-15s and wearing SWAT gear ushered students out and across the street.

At 2:15pm, the school’s Carolina Alert system sent a second message out telling students and staff there was no longer a threat.

‘There was no active shooter other than the two deceased,’ said State Law Enforcement Division spokesman Thom Berry.

According to The State reporter Amanda Coyne, some professors even taught through the lockdown.

The shooting happened a couple of blocks from the Statehouse and two blocks from the university’s basketball arena. The street is one of the city’s busiest.

Sirens could be heard as more police officers arrived at the public health building.

An alert was also issued to employees at the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, where personnel performed security sweeps as a precautionary measure.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley also cut short a news conference over security concerns.

Student Hayden Dunn, a senior from Myrtle Beach, said he was in the building about 1 p.m., getting in an elevator to change classes, when a police officer also got inside.

Dunn said the officer asked whether anyone had heard gunshots, but they hadn’t. Dunn said he went to class, then an alarm sounded five minutes later, and people rushed outside. Another office told him shots had been fired, he said.

‘Otherwise, you wouldn’t have known anything happened,’ Dunn said.

The incident was the first shooting on the University of South Carolina’s campus since 1984, 31 years earlier, when Phillip Zeltner took Pat Bowman hostage in the President’s office.


A beloved professor

Dr. Raja Fayad, was the kind of professor kids loved, according to students, former students, and colleagues, WIS reported on Friday

A check of Dr. Fayad’s page on RateMyProfessor indicates he received high marks from students who took several of his courses in the past few years.

“Take this professor,” one student wrote. “He is awesome! He knows what he is teaching and seems interested in his research.”

“Dr. Fayad is extremely nice,” another student wrote. “If you study the powerpoints and go to class you should do well. I considered the labs much harder than the actual class. Dr. Fayad is also very willing to meet in his office and go over anything you need. He is the most caring professor I have ever had!”

“Dr. Fayad is the man,” another student wrote. “He is super laid back and loves the material he teaches. He gives students the opportunity to help him do research and gives great letters of recommendation. His tests are directly from lecture and you will not be guessing what will be on the test if you go to class. One of the best professors I’ve had. Take his class!”

Former and current students and colleagues have also posted their thoughts to social media.

“Dr. Fayad was an amazing professor! Completely in shock that he was taken with such violence,” Dana Taylor said.

“RIP Dr. Fayad! It seems so unreal that I won’t see you on Monday,” Meshe Tucker said.

Update: Ex wife killed him

Richland County Coroner Gary Watts says the ex-wife of a University of South Carolina professor killed him Thursday afternoon in a murder-suicide on the school’s campus.

Late Friday afternoon, Watts identified the woman involved as 46-year-old Sunghee Kwon. Earlier in the day, Watts confirmed the other person killed was Dr. Raja Fayad, 45, who worked at the school’s health department.

Watts said at this point, evidence indicates that Kwon killed Fayad by shooting him multiple times, then turned the weapon on herself, wounding herself in the abdomen.

Watts said the two had been married, but got a divorce several years ago. He adds that they continued in a relationship after their split, including sharing a home, until just recently.

Their bodies were found Thursday in an office on the fourth floor of the Arnold School of Public Health, where Fayad worked.

State Law Enforcement Division Spokesman Thom Berry said Friday that the two were the only two involved in the incident. He said the handgun used in the killings was found at the scene, and that the clip in the gun was empty.

Earlier in the morning, USC President Dr. Harris Pastides also confirmed that Fayad was killed in the incident. On his Twitter account, Pastides wrote, “The sun is out this morning. Let’s honor Professor Fayad with respect. Show someone that we care. Hold a Gamecock’s hand today.”

Daily Mail/WIS