NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Friends and fellow Columbia University students are mourning the death of Davide Giri.

A campus-wide email told students the tragic news that Giri, a Ph.D candidate in computer science at Columbia, was stabbed to death near Morningside Park, CBS2’s Nick Caloway reported Friday.

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In a letter to students, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger called Giri’s death “unspeakably sad and deeply shocking, as it took place only steps from our campus.”

It was a shock to neighbors and students.

“I mean, it’s shocking to wake up to that email,” said Luc Boudreaux.

Hundreds of people gathered to grieve at a candlelight vigil in front of Butler Library on Friday night.

Columbia University’s president said Giri had a promising future in front of him until he was tragically killed.

“A brilliant doctoral student in an exciting field on his way to an incredible career,” Bollinger said.

Giri, originally from Italy, had studied at home and in Shanghai and Chicago before starting his Ph.D. in New York in 2016.

Friends say he loved teaching, volunteering and soccer. He had been walking past Morningside Park on his way home from soccer practice when he was randomly and violently attacked.

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Giri played competitive soccer for years. His teammates at New York International Football Club said the young defender was kind, smart and a leader on and off the field.

“He was super happy. He came in, he played well, and, you know, he left in good spirits,” said Nick Platt, president of New York International Football Club.

The club is now devastated by his death.

“He was just such a good man and quiet, quite reserved, but also equally funny. He, you know, was so determined, so intelligent, on and off the pitch, and was such a nice man to be around,” Platt told CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon.

Platt added Giri had returned to Italy during the pandemic but came back to New York in the summer to finish his Ph.D.

New York International FC says it is planning a tribute for Giri. The group says it wants his family back home in Italy to know how beloved he was here in New York.

“He was calm, very outgoing, always smiling, encouraging. For this to happen to someone like him, it just hurts even more,” teammate Samuel Lartey said.

Columbia University has counselors available to provide support for students. Many students told Caloway they want the university to provide more security in the area.

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CBS2’s Nick Caloway and Kiran Dhillon contributed to this report.

CBSNewYork Team