NEW DELHI: Indian-American professor Ajit Mal praised his colleague Christopher Lynch’s quick thinking that kept the 38-year-old UCLA gunman Mainak Sarkar from escaping professor William Klug’s office and potentially shooting more people.
Mal was on his way to teach an engineering class in University of California’s LA campus when IIT-Kharagpur alumnus Sarkar shot and killed 39-year-old professor Klug, who was accused by the shooter for stealing his computer code.
After hearing odd sounds from Klug’s office, both Lynch and Mal rushed towards the professor’s room. At that time, neither of them, both professors of mechanical and aerospace engineering, knew that Klug was shot.
However, Lynch figured out that something was amiss as he was sure that Klug would never take his own life. Assuming that a shooter was inside the Klug’s office, he held the door shut from outside.
“If he had stepped out. We’d all be in trouble,” Lynch said as he knew that more than a dozen faculty and staff members were on the floor at the time.
After that Lynch heard a third shot inside followed by eerie silence. Lynch assumed the shooter had killed himself.
Within minutes, the professors said, police converged and cleared out the floor. Lynch gave the door key to police without looking inside and left.
Besides holding the door shut, Mal said, Lynch also shouted at him and other colleagues to return to their offices and close their doors, thereby saving lives.
“If he had come out with a loaded gun, I don’t think I’d be alive,” Mal told Los Angeles Times. “Chris Lynch’s presence of mind and quick action saved us.”
Mal said Sarkar was quiet and reserved and would not even greet him when the two men passed each other, which the professor found somewhat odd since both hailed from West Bengal and spoke the same language.
He also said it was likely that Klug never knew of Sarkar’s animosity towards him. If he had, Mal said, Klug would probably have had a discussion with him. The two professors were said to be close as Mal had headed the committee which hired Klug in 2003.
“This whole thing is so incredible and bizarre because Bill is the least likely to have some conflict with students. He was so very caring,” Mal said. (With PTI inputs)