Police identify UCLA gunman as Indian student Mainak Sarkar

  • Agencies, Los Angeles
  • Updated: Jun 02, 2016 21:45 IST
A person from the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner's office removes a body at the scene of a fatal shooting at the University of California, Los Angeles, Wednesday, June 1, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP)

Los Angeles police on Thursday identified the gunman who killed a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, before taking his own life as Mainak Sarkar, an engineering student at the school.

Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman Jane Kim confirmed that the gunman had been identified as Sarkar but declined to provide other details. Sarkar had been a doctoral candidate at the school, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing police.

Sarkar is listed on a UCLA website as a member of a computational biomechanics research group run by the victim William Klug.

Sarkar, an alumni of IIT-Kharagpur, accused Klug of stealing his computer code and giving it to someone else, a media report said.

In 2000, he graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur with a degree in Aerospace Engineering.

He also had a stint as a research assistant at the University of Texas and worked as a software developer.

Read | IIT alumnus, disgruntled student: Who is UCLA gunman Mainak Sarkar?

The shooting prompted the sprawling urban campus to close for about two hours on Wednesday as police confirmed that Sarkar and his victim, 39-year-old engineering professor William Klug, were the only people involved in the incident.

The Los Angeles coroner’s office confirmed that Klug died in the attack.

Read | Professor William Klug was developing virtual heart

University officials said classes would resume on Thursday and counsellors will be available for students, faculty and staff.

“Our hearts are heavy this evening as our campus family mourns the sudden and tragic deaths of two people on our campus earlier today,” said Chancellor Gene Block in a statement.

Klug was a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, according to the university’s website. The Times reported that Klug was attempting to develop a computer-generated virtual heart.

“You cannot ask for a nicer, gentler, sweeter and more supportive guy than William Klug,” professor Alan Garfinkel told the newspaper of his colleague.

Engineering student Aaron Feigelman said he received a text message alerting him to the emergency on Wednesday and entered an adjacent building, where he and five others took refuge for 90 minutes.

“We tied the bathroom door hinges with belts to keep the door closed because there were no locks. And we just waited. It was really scary,” Feigelman said.

Umar Rehman, 21, was in a math sciences classroom adjacent to Engineering IV, the building where the shooting took place. The buildings are connected by walkway bridges near the center of the 419-acre campus.

“We kept our eye on the door. We knew that somebody eventually could come,” he said, acknowledging the terror he felt.

The door would not lock and those in the room devised a plan to hold it closed using a belt and crowbar, and demand ID from anyone who tried to get in.

One student who spent hours sheltering in a building did the same thing almost exactly two years ago when he was locked down in a dorm at UC Santa Barbara during a shooting rampage in the surrounding neighborhood that left six students dead and wounded 13 people.

Jeremy Peschard, 21, said it was “scary” and “eerily similar” but also that having been through the feeling of crisis before left him almost numb.

“I just felt a little bit less shocked, a little bit less taken aback by the reality of an active shooter on a college campus,” he told The Associated Press in an email. “Because I feel like this is the day and age we’re living in, that college campus shootings have genuinely become a normalized threat, almost like a natural disaster, except this type of destruction isn’t natural. It’s just really sad.”

Some 200 police officers wearing bulletproof vests and helmets responded to several calls of shot fired, converging on the campus with rifles drawn, fearing the shooter might still be at large.

Police recovered a gun and what may be a suicide note at the scene, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said.

UCLA’s commencement ceremonies and end-of-year events will now include mourning Klug, who was a devout Christian and a regular figure in organizing campus spiritual life.

In 2012, according to the campus website, he moderated a forum that his family and friends might find useful now. Its title: “Does God Care?: Seeking the Meaning of Life in the Midst of Suffering and Death.”

UCLA, with more than 43,000 students, is one of the more well-regarded schools in the University of California system.

“I am heartbroken by the sight of SWAT teams running down avenues normally filled with students, and angered by the fear that one person with a firearm can inflict on a community,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

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