UCLA murder-suicide gunman had planned third killing, police say
By Nichola Groom
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – 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 a professor but failed to find a third intended victim, police said on Thursday.
Mainak Sarkar, 38, had intended to kill a second professor besides shooting 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.
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, Klug – who was Sarkar’s professor at UCLA – and the name of another professor at the school, who was not harmed.
Officials would not release the name of the woman, whose body police said they found at a house in the 2400 block of Pearson Parkway in Brooklyn Park near Minneapolis.
A marriage license application obtained by Reuters lists a residence on that block as the home of Ashley Erin Hasti and Sarkar, who married in Minnesota in 2011.
Neighbors also said Hasti lived at the home. Records do not show whether the couple, who appeared to have been living separately, were divorced.
An active Facebook page belonging to a Minneapolis-area woman named Ashley Hasti shows pictures of Sarkar, but not more recently than May 2011, about two weeks before their marriage.
A page apparently belonging to him, with no public posts since 2011, still prominently displayed several photos of them together.
According to the birth date listed on the marriage license application, Hasti turned 31 in March.
“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 9mm 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 on Klug appeared to be provoked by Sarkar’s belief that his former professor had stolen computer code from him, according to a March blog post that appeared to be written by Sarkar, Beck said.
“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 adviser, Dr. William Klug, for all his help and support,” Sarkar wrote.
Sarkar hails from India’s eastern state of West Bengal, where he graduated in aerospace engineering from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur in 2000, according to an ex-classmate and the university’s alumni list.
Staff at his secondary school in the industrial town of Durgapur remember him as an able student who passed his exams with good results.
“He was from Durgapur town,” Sumita Mukherjee, who was the secretary to the school principal, told Reuters. “This is many years ago, but I do not recall any strangeness in his behavior.”
Indian media said Sarkar left for the United States in the early 2000s, after a short stint as a software developer in southern India.
Los Angeles police chief 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 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. His wife, Mary Elise Klug, said in a statement released through UCLA that the family was grateful for the support it had received.
“Bill was so much more than my soulmate. I will miss him every day for the rest of my life,” she said.
Reports of shots fired, or even sightings of possible gunmen, have sparked heavy police responses and lockdowns at U.S. schools and elsewhere 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.
(Additional reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago, Amy Tennery in New York, Piya Sinha-Roy in Los Angeles, David Bailey in Minneapolis, Curtis Skinner in San Francisco, Ben Klayman in Detroit, Sujoy Dhar in Kolkata and Promit Mukherjee and Tommy Wilkes in New Delhi; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Clarence Fernandez)