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UCLA gunman planned to kill two professors but could find only one, police say

The gunman who killed a UCLA professor before committing suicide on campus Wednesday left behind a “kill list” and is suspected in the shooting death of a woman in Minnesota, authorities said.

Mainak Sarkar, 38, a former doctoral student and Minnesota resident, left a list at his home in that state that included the names of the woman, UCLA professor William Klug and a second professor who is safe, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday. Sarkar shot Klug multiple times in a small office in UCLA Engineering Building 4 before taking his own life, authorities said.

Sarkar had accused Klug of stealing his computer code and giving it to someone else, according to police.

Authorities declined to name the woman in Minnesota or a possible motive.

On Thursday, police in Brooklyn Park, Minn., strung crime scene tape around a gray split-level home at 2457 Pearson Parkway. Public records listed the resident there as Ashley Hasti. Hennepin County Vital Records confirms that Hasti was married to Sarkar on June 14, 2011. It was unclear if they remained married at the time of the shooting.

When detectives arrived at Klug’s office on Wednesday morning and found both bodies, they also found a note from Sarkar listing his home address in Minnesota and asking someone to “check on my cat.”

“Immediately we were highly suspicious,” Beck told The Times. “That made me uneasy about what we would find when we got to Minnesota.”

Full Coverage: Shooting at UCLA >>

The LAPD worked with the FBI and Minnesota authorities and served a search warrant at Sarkar’s home, Beck said. Inside, they found extra ammunition and a box for one of two pistols found at UCLA, as well as the three-name “kill list,” the chief said.

Authorities went to the woman’s home in Brooklyn Park, a Minneapolis suburb, and found her body just after midnight Thursday, Brooklyn Park Police Deputy Chief Mark Bruley said at a news conference.

“We have multiple detectives working on this case,” Bruley said. “We’re working with LAPD to coordinate our efforts.”

Beck said it appeared the woman had been dead of a gunshot wound for “maybe a couple of days.”

Authorities declined to name the woman or her relationship to Sarkar but said Sarkar was suspected in her death.

“We would physically arrest him were he still alive,” the chief said.

Sarkar drove from Minnesota to Los Angeles, according to Beck, but it was unclear how long he was in L.A. before Wednesday’s shooting. Detectives don’t think it was “more than a couple of days,” the chief said.

On Wednesday, a “heavily armed” Sarkar carried a backpack, two semiautomatic pistols and extra magazines to Klug’s fourth-floor office, where he fatally shot the professor before turning the gun on himself, Beck said. The gunman, he said, “was certainly prepared to engage multiple victims.” 

A note from Sarkar included language about the second professor, Beck said. 

“We believe … that he went to kill two faculty from UCLA,” Beck said. “He was only able to locate one.”

The second professor, whom Beck did not name, was not on campus at the time of the shooting. Police have been in contact with that person, who “is fine,” the chief said. That professor “knew Sarkar had issues with him,” Beck said. 

Klug, 39, was a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. Sarkar had accused him of stealing his computer code and giving it to someone else, according to police. A source called the gunman’s accusations “absolutely untrue.”

Klug had been the target of Sarkar’s anger on social media for months. On March 10, he called the professor a “very sick person” who could not be trusted.

“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. 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.”

Beck said that while Sarkar’s online postings contained “some harsh language,” there was “certainly nothing that would be considered homicidal.” The chief said it was not initially known whether Klug or other professors expressed concerns about Sarkar to anyone at UCLA. 

Klug, who was described by friends as a kind and caring man, worked diligently to help Sarkar finish his dissertation and graduate, even though the quality of Sarkar’s work was not stellar, one source said.

“Bill was extremely generous to this student, who was a subpar student,” the person said.

In his doctoral dissertation, submitted in 2013, Sarkar expressed gratitude to Klug for his help and support. A syllabus from 2010 lists Sarkar as one of two teaching assistants in a mechanical and aerospace engineering course, MAE: 101: Statics and Strength of Materials. Sarkar was listed in the 2014 doctoral commencement booklet with Klug as his advisor.

Beck said that Sarkar had graduated from UCLA in 2013 and had been living in St. Paul, Minn., in recent years. 

Investigators are trying to determine Sarkar’s actions in recent days, particularly his drive from Minnesota, Beck said. Police are searching for Sarkar’s car, a 2003 gray Nissan Sentra, with Minnesota license plate 720KTW.

Beck said police don’t expect the vehicle to be “any significant danger,” but officials have asked anyone who sees it to call police. There was no immediate evidence to suggest Sarkar committed other crimes between St. Paul and Los Angeles, Beck said. 

UCLA students will hold a vigil for Klug at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Bruin Plaza on campus, according to the university press office. Another vigil is planned by the engineering school at 4 p.m. Friday at the UCLA Court of Sciences.

“Our entire UCLA family is mourning the loss of Professor Klug, a respected, dedicated and caring faculty member,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block wrote in a statement to the campus community. “At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with Professor Klug’s wife, Mary Elise, his two children, and his extended family, friends and colleagues. … Let us remember and be grateful for the wonderful gifts and talents Professor Klug shared with us at UCLA.”

Before enrolling at UCLA, Klug’s killer earned a master’s degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering at Stanford University, according to University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin. “According to the people here who looked at his record, it was an uneventful time here,” she said.

Prior to that, Sarkar earned an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, according to his LinkedIn page. In the U.S., he also had a stint as a research assistant at the University of Texas and worked as a software developer.

After UCLA, Sarkar worked remotely as an engineering analyst for an Ohio-based rubber company, Endurica LLC. Will Mars, the company’s president, confirmed to The Times that Sarkar worked for Endurica until August 2014. He declined to provide more details.

On Sarkar’s LinkedIn page, however, Mars offered a more specific recommendation in a post published Aug. 1, 2014: “Mainak is a steady contributor with solid technical skills in FEA and software development. I appreciate the quality of his work, and his careful approach to new problems. He has worked for Endurica in an off-site situation requiring great trust and independence, and he has performed well under those conditions.”

Matthew Uy, who provided many “endorsements” of Sarkar on LinkedIn, said that he worked in a lab at UCLA that “collaborated” with Sarkar, then a graduate student. Uy said he had not spoken with or seen Sarkar in about five years and felt “pretty disconnected” from him in general.

On Wednesday, thousands of students and UCLA staff found themselves racing to barricade classroom doors with desks, projectors and anything else they could find after cellphones buzzed across campus with alerts of a possible shooting.

By 12:05 p.m., police confirmed that two men had been killed in an engineering building.

The campus was declared safe, and UCLA officials lifted a lockdown that had canceled classes for the day.

On Thursday, students, faculty and workers returned to campus.  Deborah Gutierrez, who works as a transcriber at UCLA Medical Center, was among them.

Gutierrez had bought flowers at a farmers market to place on her desk, but decided to drop them off in front of Engineering Building 4 instead.

She nearly broke down as she arranged the flowers, along with a card that read "Prof Klug,  Smart and kind. We miss you".

"It's so emotional," Gutierrez said. "This hits so close to home.”

MORE ON UCLA SHOOTING

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

Times staff writers Joseph Serna, Veronica Rocha, Teresa Watanabe and Sonali Kohli contributed to this report.

 


UPDATES:

7:19 p.m.: This article was updated to clarify that William Klug was a full professor at UCLA.

2:42 p.m.: This article was updated with information from Hennepin County Vital Records.

1:34 p.m.: This article was updated with information about a vigil for Klug.

12:26 p.m.: This article was updated with additional information throughout. 

11:45 a.m.: This article was updated with information from a home in Minnesota where a woman was found shot to death.

10:31 a.m.: This article was updated with additional information throughout.

10:05 a.m.: This article was updated with additional information from LAPD Police Chief Beck.

9:09 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck

8:42 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck.

7:50 a.m.: This article was updated with additional details about Wednesday’s shooting and most classes resuming on Thursday.

This article was originally published at 6:51 a.m.

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