UCLA murder-suicide gunman had planned third killing

LOS ANGELES — A former University of California, Los Angeles, student shot dead a woman at her home in Minnesota before he drove almost 2,000 miles (3,200 km) to the school and killed one professor but failed to find a third intended victim, police said on Thursday, June 3.

Mainak Sarkar, 38, had intended to kill a second professor in addition to engineering professor William Klug, 39, at a small office on the campus, police said. He shot himself dead after the killing, police said. The shootings prompted a two-hour long lockdown on Wednesday.

William Klug
William Klug spoke about his faith and his career in Westmont College’s magazine, saying: “Knowing there is a God responsible for the world makes a big difference in my motivation to understand it better. I developed a habit of relying on God for what I felt was beyond my ability to control or what I couldn’t do for myself.” Photo from Klug Research Group

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told reporters on Thursday that a search of Sarkar’s St. Paul, Minnesota, home turned up a “kill list” that included the name of the woman found dead nearby, as well as the name of the other UCLA professor, who was not harmed.

“We believe that Sarkar came to the Los Angeles area very recently, within the last couple of days,” Beck told reporters at Los Angeles police headquarters. “He went there to kill two faculty from UCLA. He was only able to find one.”

The other professor was off campus at the time, Beck said.

Sarkar was armed with two 9 mm pistols and multiple ammunition clips, Beck said. He killed himself immediately after fatally shooting Klug, he said.

Police searched Sarkar’s Minnesota home after finding a note at the Los Angeles crime scene asking for someone to check on his cat, Beck said.

“In the search of Sarkar’s residence in Minneapolis, a list was located,” Beck said. “The list has been described as a ‘kill list.’ That was the wording that was put on it.”

The attack appeared to be provoked by Sarkar’s belief that Klug had stolen computer code from him, according to a March blog post that appeared to be written by Sarkar.

“Your enemy is my enemy. But your friend can do a lot more harm,” the post said. “Be careful about whom you trust.”

Reuters was not able to confirm the authenticity of the blog.

“UCLA says there is no truth to this,” Beck said of the alleged theft of code. “This was a making of his own imagination.”

The anger reflected in the March blog contrasted with earlier online records indicating Sarkar had gotten along with Klug. In a copy of his 2013 dissertation posted online, Sarkar thanked Klug.

“I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. William Klug, for all his help and support,” Sarkar wrote.


Harsh Language

Beck said UCLA faculty members were aware that Sarkar, who graduated in 2013, harbored anger toward them.

“There was some harsh language but certainly nothing that would be considered homicidal,” Beck said, referring to social media postings by Sarkar. His motive for killing the woman was unclear, Beck said.

University officials did not respond on Thursday to requests for comment on Sarkar’s claims.

Prior to his time at UCLA, from 2003 to 2005 Sarkar attended Stanford University, where he received a master’s degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, university spokeswoman Lisa Lapin said.

Police in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, north of Minneapolis, said they discovered the woman’s body when they went to check on her. They did not immediately disclose her identity.

Klug was a married father of two children, UCLA said in a statement.

“It was really a pleasure to work with him, from a scientific point of view for his original ideas, but also from the personal point of view,” Wouter Roos, a professor at the University of Gronigen in The Netherlands who co-authored several research papers with Klug, said in an email. “He had such a positive attitude.”

Reports of shots fired, or even sightings of possible gunmen, have sparked heavy police responses and lockdowns at U.S. schools and other places because of the nation’s history of mass shootings.

Last October nine people were shot and killed at Umpqua Community College in southwest Oregon. The 2007 attack at Virginia Tech, in which a gunman killed 32 people, was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Classes resumed at UCLA on Thursday, with the university offering counselors for students, faculty and staff.

UCLA, part of the University of California system, has more than 43,000 students.

— by Nichola Groom | Reuters

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