A gunman who shot dead his former college professor in California before taking his own life also murdered his wife as he worked off a “kill list,” authorities and media reports said.
Mainak Sarkar, 38, killed Ashley Hasti in Minnesota and then drove 2,000 miles (3,220-kilometer) to Los Angeles where he shot his former professor William Klug on Wednesday, according to police and local media.
Officials in Hennepin County, in the midwestern state of Minnesota, said Hasti and Sarkar were married on June 14, 2011. It was unclear if the couple were still married at the time of their deaths.
Klug, 39, a father of two who taught mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), was shot in his office on campus before Sarkar turned the gun on himself, police said.
A note in Sarkar’s backpack -- in which he asked that someone look after his cat -- led police to his home in Minnesota, where a “kill list” was found, Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck told reporters.
He said Klug was named on the list along with another UCLA professor and the deceased woman, apparently Hasti.
She was found dead of a gunshot wound at her home in the small Minnesota town of Brooklyn Park.
Beck said investigators believe Sarkar killed her earlier in the week before driving to Los Angeles to continue his rampage, armed with two semi-automatic pistols and multiple rounds of ammunition.
“We believe he went there to kill two faculty of UCLA,” Beck said. “He was only able to locate one. The second member was off campus.”
He said Sarkar was apparently convinced Klug had stolen his computer code and given it to someone else, and seemed bent on revenge.
“That appears to be his motive,” Beck said. “We have discussed this with UCLA (which) says there is no truth to it.
“This was a making of his own imagination.”
He said investigators were trying to piece together Sarkar’s movements between Minnesota and Los Angeles to “see if there is a trail” and any other victims.
Held a grudge
The murder-suicide prompted a lockdown and a massive security deployment at the university, amid fears of a mass shooting.
The university was shut down for the day but reopened on Thursday and a vigil was planned later in the evening to honor Klug.
Students and staff affected by the shooting were offered counseling.
The Los Angeles Times quote a source who was close to Klug as saying the professor had gone out of his way to help Sarkar finish his dissertation and to graduate, even though his work was subpar.
In his doctoral dissertation, submitted in 2013, Sarkar thanked Klug for his help and support.
But he apparently developed a grudge against his former mentor, and offered scathing criticism of Klug in a now-deleted blog post on March 10.
“William Klug, UCLA professor is not the kind of person when you think of a professor,” he wrote in the post quoted by several US media.
“He is a very sick person. I urge every new student coming to UCLA to stay away from this guy...”
Beck said the other professor targeted by Sarkar told investigators he was aware Sarkar held a grudge but did not think “it would rise to the level of homicide.”
‘We’ve become immune’
According to his LinkedIn page, Sarkar got his master’s degree from Stanford University and also studied aerospace engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, where he graduated in 2000.
He apparently worked as a research assistant at the University of Texas in 2003 and then took on a job as a software developer.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday that the deadly shooting at UCLA was a reminder of how endemic gun violence had become in the United States, where readily-available firearms claim around 30,000 lives each year.
“When guns are so easy to get, when that violence continues to play out on our streets, we have to speak up and speak out -- have smart legislation to try to prevent that where we can,” he told reporters.
“You can have a Ph.D. or you can be a little kid, you could be black or white, brown or Asian ... and gun violence has just become too acceptable. We’ve become immune to it.”