A Ph.D. gunman crossed a victim off his “kill list” yesterday when he fatally shot a UCLA professor over allegations of stolen code and sparked a campus-wide lockdown in the middle of finals week. Mainak Sarkar, 38, had accused Professor William Klug, 39, of the theft in March 2016. On June 1, Sarkar confronted Klug in UCLA’s engineering complex and shot him dead with a 9mm handgun. Sarkar then took his own life.
The victim was a professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, according to his official bio on UCLA’s website.
Sarkar was first named in a report by CBS News. He had a Ph.D. in solid mechanics from UCLA.
The shooting prompted a two-hour lockdown and massive police response at the school, with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck telling the media when it was over, “The campus is entirely contained. We believe there are no suspects outstanding and no continuing threat to UCLA’s campus.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Sarkar Had a ‘Kill List’ in His Home in Minnesota & Also Shot His Wife Ashley Hasti Dead There
On June 2, Chief Beck told the L.A. Times that Sarkar had a “kill list” at his home in St. Paul, Minnesota, and had shot a woman dead in her home in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Park. The kill list included her name, Klug’s name, and another professor who is thought to be safe. The woman has been named as 31-year-old Ashley Hasti.
It was originally reported that Hasti was Sarkar’s ex-girlfriend, but WCCO-TV is reporting that they were married in 2011. It is not clear if they were still together or had separated.
Beck said the professor was not on campus at the time of the shooting, but it is not known if Sarkar tried to find him before killing himself.
In his press conference immediately after the shooting, UCLA Police Chief James Herren suggested the incident may have been a murder-suicide. KNX reporter Rob Archer tweeted that a suicide note was recovered at the scene. But Chief Beck told the L.A. Times the note listed Sarkar’s home address and requested that someone “check on my cat.” At a later press conference, Beck said there was no reference to suicide in the note.
The kill list led police to check Hasti’s home, where they discovered her body.
Authorities are also trying to track down Sarkar’s 2003 gray Nissan Sentra with Minnesota plates 720KTW. He is thought to have driven from Minnesota to Los Angeles.
The Daily Bruin originally reported that the shooter was a white male who was 6 feet tall. The newspaper added that the shooter was wearing a black jacket and black pants. That was based on a campus police description.
KNX reporter Claudia Peschiutta tweeted that Sarkar was “despondent” over his grades, which prompted the shooting.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Klug was killed inside an office in the engineering complex.
Police recovered two pistols at the scene, along with extra ammunition magazines. Beck told reporters both guns were purchased legally, and at least one was registered to Sarkar.
Investigators later found “extra ammunition and a box for one of two pistols found at UCLA” in Sarkar’s Minnesota home, the Times reports. It is not yet known when or where Sarkar purchased the guns.
CBS News reports that Sarkar has no previous criminal history. But police have not said whether Sarkar had a history of mental health issues.
2. In March 2016 Blog Post, Sarkar Wrote That Professor Klug Was a ‘Sick Person,’ but in 2014 He Thanked Klug & Called Him a ‘Mentor’
In a now-deleted blog post on his WordPress site LongDarkTunnelblog, Sarkar wrote about Professor Klug. On March 10, the shooter was scathing in his criticism of Klug saying:
William Klug, UCLA professor is not the kind of person when you think of a professor. 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 Ph.D student. We had personal differences. He cleverly stole all my code and gave it 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.
The Los Angeles Times reports that in 2014 in a doctoral commencement booklet, Klug was listed as Sarkar’s advisor, the shooter wrote to Klug, “Thank you for being my mentor.”
A source at UCLA told the Los Angeles Times that Sarkar’s theft claims were “absolutely untrue.” The source added, “The idea that somebody took his ideas is absolutely psychotic” and that Klug “bent over backwards” to help Sarkar finish his dissertation.
Neighbors of Ashley Hasti identified her as the victim found dead in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. The St. Paul Pioneer-Press reports that she was 31-years-old. The LAPD had asked police in the Brooklyn Park area to perform a welfare check on her home.
According to her LinkedIn page, Hasti had been studying at the University of Minnesota’s Medical School, first registering 2012. She got her undergrad there in Asian languages and literature.
A woman named Stacy told the Pioneer-Press that she saw Sarkar in the area around Hasti’s home about a week before the UCLA shooting. She added that she regularly saw cats around the apartment.
KARE 11’s Lou Raguse reports that the home in Brooklyn Park was owned by Hasti’s father and the neighbors were more familiar with him than his daughter.
3. Sarkar Was a Member of Klug’s Research Group at UCLA & Got His Master’s Degree at Stanford After Studying in India
Klug had his own research group at the school. On their website, the Klug Research Group says:
We are primarily interested in theoretical and computational biomechanics. In particular, we are developing continuum and multiscale methods to understand the mechanics of biological structures from the molecular and cellular scales upward. Some of our projects are listed below.
There are six doctoral students involved in the research group, including Mainak Sarkar. On that page, Sarkar is said to have been studying at UCLA since 2006.
According to his LinkedIn page, which has been taken down, Sarkar got his master’s degree at Stanford and also studied aerospace engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur. After that, he apparently returned to the U.S. to work as a research assistant at the University of Texas in 2003 before working as a software developer.
Sarkar also worked for a rubber company named Endurica as an engineering analyst. The Los Angeles Times reports that he left that job in August 2014, according to the company’s president William Mars.
He wrote a glowing tribute to Sarkar on LinkedIn saying:
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.
Sarkar represented Endurica at a conference in Cleveland in October 2013.
Another of those who provided an endorsement on LinkedIn, Matthew Uy, told the Los Angeles Times that he hadn’t seen Sarkar in years and the Uy felt “pretty disconnected” from the shooter.
In 2010, Mainak was a teaching assistant in an aerospace engineering course at UCLA under Melissa Gibbons.
Klug’s friend Lance Giroux told CBS Los Angeles that, “Kids loved working with him because he was such an easy coach to work with.”
A professor of integrative biology and physiology, Alan Garfinkel, told the Los Angeles Times, “I am absolutely devastated. You cannot ask for a nicer, gentler, sweeter and more supportive guy than William Klug.”