Local News

UCLA professor killed in campus murder-suicide

LOS ANGELES — The man who fatally shot a UCLA engineering professor Wednesday then killed himself was a Minnesota resident who appears to have also killed a woman in that state whose name was on a “kill list” found in the gunman’s residence.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said the list found in Mainak Sarkar’s home included three names: the woman in Minnesota; UCLA professor William Scott Klug and another UCLA professor, who was not injured. Beck declined to give the names of the woman or the other professor.

The relationship between between Sarkar and the dead woman, whose body was found in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, near Sarkar’s home, was not immediately clear.

Beck said Sarkar, 38, likely killed the woman in Minnesota, then drove to California in a 2003 gray Nissan Sentra with the Minnesota license plate 720KTW. The car is still being sought in the UCLA area.

Beck said the car is not believed to present any danger, but he urged anyone who spots it to call authorities and not approach it.

Beck told KNX Newsradio that Sarkar was heavily armed at UCLA, carrying two semiautomatic pistols with multiple ammunition magazines. He said it “very easily could have turned into a much, much more horrific situation.”

The UCLA campus reopened Thursday, with the university offering counseling to students and faculty distressed by Wednesday’s shooting. A vigil is planned at UCLA Thursday night.

Professor William Klug
Professor William Klug

Klug was a 39-year-old El Segundo resident, a father of two and an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Sarkar, 38, was a former doctoral student of Klug’s and a current member of the Klug Research Group; Computational Biomechanics, at UCLA, according to a Klug Research Group publication.

Sarkar had accused the victim of stealing his computer code and giving it to someone else, according to an online blog post he wrote on March 10.

“William Klug, UCLA professor, is not the kind of person when you think of a professor,” Sarkar wrote. “He is a very sick person. I urge every new student coming to UCLA to stay away from this guy.

“My name is Mainak Sarkar. I was this guy’s PhD student. We had personal differences. He cleverly stole all my code and gave it to another student. He made me really sick.

“Your enemy is your enemy. But your friend can do a lot more harm. Be careful about whom you trust.

“Stay away from this sick guy.”

A source told the Los Angeles Times that the gunman’s claims were “absolutely untrue.”

“The idea that somebody took his ideas is absolutely psychotic,” the source said, adding that Klug bent over backwards to help Sarkar finish his dissertation and graduate even though the quality of his work was not stellar.

“Bill was a super nice guy,” the source said. “He didn’t want to hurt the guy.”

In his doctoral dissertation, submitted in 2013, Sarkar expressed gratitude to Klug for his help and support, The Times reported.

The shooting, which, for a time, triggered fears that at least one gunman was on a rampage, was reported shortly before 10 a.m. Wednesday in Boelter Hall, part of the Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the entire campus was placed on lockdown, along with three Los Angeles Unified School District schools nearby.

The incident prompted a massive response involving three local police departments, two federal law enforcement agencies and the Los Angeles Fire Department. The LAPD deployed some of its specialized units, including the SWAT team and the bomb squad, and the murder-suicide probe is now in the hands of Robbery Homicide.

The LAPD went on tactical alert, meaning officers were kept on past the end of their shifts, as an intensive law enforcement sweep was carried out on the Westside campus amid fears of an active shooter.

The initial reports of a shooting prompted the university to send a “Bruin Alert” to all students and staff notifying them to avoid the School of Engineering area or shelter in place. Some students reported via social media hunkering down in restrooms or classrooms, using anything they could — belts, furniture — to prevent entry from the outside.

Even after the campus was deemed secure, all classes were canceled for the day, along with evening activities, but Scott Waugh, UCLA vice chancellor and provost, said campus operations would return to normal Thursday — except for engineering classes, which will be canceled for the rest of the week. Waugh said this weekend’s and next week’s final exams would not be disrupted.

“We will go ahead with commencement and final examinations over the next few weeks and hope to return our campus to normal and return the Bruin community to its normal operations,” he said.

UCLA officials said the university is offering counseling services to students and staff affected by the shooting. The university has designated “healing spaces” on the campus where students can gather, and counselors will be available for students at the Counseling and Psychological Services office.

Chief Beck, in summing up what had happened, said late Wednesday morning that two men were found dead inside a small office in the building, and a gun was found nearby. He deemed it a murder-suicide, ending fears of an active shooter.

Beck said at least three shots were fired. He confirmed evidence was found at the scene “that could be a suicide note, but we do not know that at this point.”

Once the killings were determined to be a murder-suicide, police continued to thoroughly sweep through the building and several adjacent buildings “out of an abundance of caution,” as Beck put it.

As police began clearing classrooms, students were seen walking from buildings, often with their hands raised and some being subjected to pat-downs as they left.

According to Klug’s online biography, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Westmont College in 1998, a master’s at UCLA in 1999 and a doctorate from Caltech in 2003.

An account benefiting the Klug family has been established on the website Gofundme.com, with more than $5,000 raised in the first two hours.

Donations to the Klug family memorial fund can be made at gofundme.com/27gqffg.