For UCLA shooter Mainak Sarkar, sudden rage after years of intense academic studies

The gunman was dead. Beside him, two semiautomatic pistols, extra magazines and a backpack.

Mainak Sarkar, a former doctoral student, had killed himself after storming through a UCLA building and fatally shooting a highly regarded professor inside a small fourth-floor office.

But the note Sarkar left behind kept authorities on edge. It listed a home address in St. Paul, Minn., nearly 2,000 miles away. There was also a request. Could someone check on his cat?

That led authorities to search the 38-year-old’s home, where they discovered a “kill list” with three names: William Klug, the professor fatally shot Wednesday; another UCLA professor, who is safe; and a woman who lived in a nearby suburb.

The woman was found early Thursday inside her gray Brooklyn Park home, dead from a gunshot wound. Public records listed the resident as Ashley Hasti, a 31-year-old University of Minnesota medical student whom Sarkar married in 2011.

Detectives are piecing together Sarkar’s movements in the Midwest and what led up to the murder-suicide that sent thousands of UCLA students racing for cover and holing up in classrooms.

They believe that Sarkar killed the woman, then drove to Los Angeles in his gray, 2003 Nissan Sentra. The car, which has not been found, may contain evidence and other clues to help them establish a motive, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told The Times on Thursday.

So far there is nothing to suggest Sarkar committed other crimes during his trip, Beck said, but detectives are working with authorities in various states “to see if there is a trail.”

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Sarkar used a 9-mm pistol purchased legally in Minnesota to kill Klug, according to a source familiar with the investigation. Authorities are attempting to determine whether the weapon used in Los Angeles was connected to the Brooklyn Park shooting.

Sarkar intended to kill two UCLA faculty members, but was able to locate only Klug, Beck said. It was not immediately clear if Sarkar looked for the other professor, who was not named. That professor wasn’t on campus at the time of the shooting.

Both instructors were aware that Sarkar had issues with them. “But I don’t think that is cause for somebody to believe that they were going to be a homicide target,” the chief said.

It was not initially known whether either of the professors had expressed concerns about Sarkar to anyone at UCLA.

Beck said detectives were also trying to contact other people in Sarkar’s life to make sure there were no additional victims.

Klug, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Sarkar appeared to have had a friendly relationship that at some point turned sour. In his doctoral dissertation, submitted in 2013, Sarkar expressed gratitude to the professor for his help and support.

“Thank you for being my mentor,” he wrote. A 2014 doctoral commencement booklet listed Klug as Sarkar’s advisor.

But in recent months, Sarkar lashed out at the professor in online postings. On March 10, Sarkar called Klug a “very sick person” who could not be trusted.

“I urge every new student coming to UCLA to stay away from this guy,” he wrote on his blog. “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.” He posted Klug’s photo.

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According to police, Sarkar had accused Klug of stealing his computer code and giving it to someone else. A source familiar with the relationship called the accusation “absolutely psychotic” and said that Klug had bent over backward to help Sarkar finish his dissertation and graduate.

Sarkar had struggled with severe mental problems, including depression and an inability to study, which compromised his work at UCLA, the source said.

Alex Levine, a UCLA biology and chemistry professor, said Klug, 39, felt strongly about his vocation and was intent on making a real impact on developments in human health.

“There’s absolutely nothing that Bill did that would have any bearing on this,” Levine said of the shooting.

Beck said detectives discussed the theft allegation with UCLA officials and found it to be without merit. “This was a making of his own imagination,” he said of Sarkar.

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Sarkar received an aerospace engineering degree in 2000 from the Indian Institutes of Technology at Kharagpur in eastern India. Over the years, IIT has built a storied reputation, with its graduates becoming top executives at major corporations.

By then, Sarkar had attended Stanford from 2003 until 2005, earning a Master’s of Science in aeronautical and astronautical engineering. He had a stint as a research assistant at the University of Texas and worked as a software developer.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Sarkar became a teaching assistant at UCLA in 2008. Residents of the cream-and-aqua apartment complex in the Sawtelle neighborhood where Sarkar lived recalled that the mechanical engineering student kept to himself.

Eugenio Martinez, 30, said Sarkar appeared to enjoy people-watching.

“I just remembered he was very observant of everyone,” Martinez said. “He never spoke, at least not to me. He seemed normal and tranquil.”

Sarkar graduated from UCLA in 2013. He eventually settled in Minnesota and worked remotely as an engineering analyst for Ohio-based rubber company Endurica LLC.

“I appreciate the quality of his work and his careful approach to new problems,” the company’s president wrote on Sarkar’s LinkedIn page.

So far, little is known about Sarkar’s life in Minnesota. Sources close to the investigation said Sarkar’s relationship with Hasti had ended at some point. On Thursday, police and crime lab crews swarmed the Brooklyn Park home they once shared.

At Sarkar’s residence in St. Paul, authorities recovered ammunition and a box for one of the two pistols found at UCLA. The cat was found safe.

Eugenio Martinez, 30, said Sarkar appeared to enjoy people-watching.

“I just remembered he was very observant of everyone,” Martinez said. “He never spoke, at least not to me. He seemed normal and tranquil.”

MORE ON UCLA SHOOTING

Slain UCLA professor William Klug, father of two, praised as 'great man' by students

How students coped during UCLA lockdown

Editorial: Just a murder-suicide in a small UCLA office. And so America shrugs


UPDATES:

7:30 a.m.: This article was updated throughout with more information.

2:23 p.m: This article has been updated with scenes from UCLA

12:41 p.m.: This article was updated with information from the shooter’s former apartment in Westwood.

This article was originally published at 10:49 a.m.

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