LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former UCLA graduate student killed a woman in Minnesota before carrying two semi-automatic pistols and a grudge back to Los Angeles, where he fatally shot a young professor he once called a mentor and then killed himself, police said Thursday.
The two victims were on a “kill list” that Mainak Sarkar had composed — as was a second professor authorities believe the gunman intended to kill but could not find Wednesday on the bustling campus, police Chief Charlie Beck said.
Authorities did not publicly identify the unharmed professor or the woman. A law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press that the woman on the list was Ashley Hasti, who documents show married the gunman in 2011.
Authorities pieced together the case as most classes resumed a day after thousands of students and staff members were locked down on the sprawling grounds of UCLA. Its normally tranquil paths and hallways were swarmed by a small army of officers clad in body armor and wielding high-powered rifles.
The investigation unfolded rapidly based on a note Sarkar left in the office where he killed professor William Klug. It mentioned the second professor, who also belonged to UCLA’s engineering faculty, and asked anyone who read it to check on Sarkar’s cat in St. Paul, Minnesota.
At Sarkar’s apartment, authorities found his list of three planned targets. Authorities checked the residence of the woman in the nearby town of Brooklyn Park and found her body.
The law enforcement official said Hasti was the name of the woman on Sarkar’s list. Beck said the woman named on the list was the victim; and a neighbor told AP that Hasti lived in the home with her father.
The official who said Hasti’s name was on the list was not authorized to publicly discuss the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Gordy Aune Jr., who lives three doors away and is the neighborhood watch commander, said Hasti and her father were quiet and kept to themselves.
Records in Hennepin County, Minnesota, show Hasti married Sarkar in 2011, though more recently they had different residences and their current relationship was unclear.
Hasti’s uncle, Mark Fitzgibbons, told NBC News that the couple was together for only a couple of years and separated several years ago.
“He was a nice, quiet young man,” Fitzgibbons said. “I don’t know what happened to make him do this. I am just as shocked as everyone else.”
Sarkar had disparaged Klug online and the professor knew of his contempt, but police have not uncovered any death threats, Beck said. The writings contained “some harsh language, but certainly nothing that would be considered homicidal,” he said.
A blog post written in March by someone identifying himself as Sarkar asserted that Klug “cleverly stole all my code and gave it (to) another student” and “made me really sick.”
The blog continues: “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.”
Beck said it was Sarkar who was mentally unstable. The chief cited conversations in which UCLA officials told investigators the former Ph.D. student’s claims of stolen code are “a making of his own imagination.”
Sarkar, 38, and Klug, 39, were once close. In his 2013 dissertation about using engineering to understand the human heart, the student thanked the professor “for all his help and support. Thank you for being my mentor.”
Authorities believe Sarkar drove to Los Angeles in the past few days with two handguns he legally bought in Minnesota. With the weapons and ammunition Sarkar carried, “he could have caused many more fatalities than the one,” Beck said.
At Sarkar’s apartment building in St. Paul, the only people who would open their doors Thursday said they didn’t know their neighbor and that police had been there Wednesday night.
Sarkar’s LinkedIn page shows he obtained a master’s degree at Stanford University after graduating in 2000 from the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur with a degree in aerospace engineering.
He most recently was listed as an engineering analyst at a Findlay, Ohio, company called Endurica. Company president Will Mars said Sarkar left in August 2014.
It’s unclear what he had been doing since.
Colleagues and friends described Klug as a kind, devoted family man and teacher who coached youth baseball in his adopted hometown of El Segundo and didn’t appear to have conflicts with anyone. He is survived by his wife and two children, a 9-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl.
“Bill was an absolutely wonderful man, just the nicest guy you would ever want to meet,” said Alan Garfinkel, a biology and physiology professor who worked with Klug to build a computer model of a “virtual heart” that researchers could use to test drugs without harming anyone.
Fellow mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Jeff Eldredge met Klug 17 years ago when they were doctoral students at Caltech, and they joined the UCLA faculty on the same day.
“I had looked forward to us growing into old grouchy professors together,” Eldredge said.