Updated: Friday, June 3, 2016 – 10:13 PM
(CNS) – UCLA gunman Mainak Sarkar’s car was located today in Culver City and investigators found a handgun and several gasoline cans in its trunk, but the containers were only thought to have been used for refueling the vehicle during the suspect’s trip to Los Angeles from Minnesota.
Someone riding a bicycle about 1:50 p.m. on Washington Place, just west of Sawtelle Boulevard, recognized the parked vehicle from media reports and called the Los Angeles Police Department’s Pacific Station, said Los Angeles Police Department Chief of Detectives Matt Blake.
Investigators had been looking for the silver-gray Nissan Sentra, registered in Sarkar’s home state of Minnesota, since he fatally shot one of his former professors, William S. Klug, then himself, in a campus office shortly before 10 a.m. Wednesday.
A bus transfer ticket found in Sarkar’s pocket indicated he parked the vehicle near to where he lived while attending UCLA, then rode to the campus.
Once the car was confirmed to be Sarkar’s, the area was cordoned off and a bomb squad was summoned to examine the vehicle located the handgun and gasoline containers, some of them still containing fuel, Blake said.
The bus route would have been one that Sarkar regularly took while attending UCLA, Capt. William Hayes of the LAPD’s Robbery-Homicide Division said.
Police say Sarkar drove from Minnesota to California after killing his estranged wife and before killing Klug.
A second UCLA professor was on a “kill list” found in Sarkar’s home in St. Paul, Minnesota, but he was not harmed, police said. That educator’s name has not been released.
LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said Thursday that Sarkar, 38, likely killed the woman in Minnesota several days ago, then drove to California.
Hayes said according to preliminary test results, bullet casings found at the two crime scenes indicate they likely came from one of the weapons Sarkar brought to UCLA.
The woman who was named on the so-called kill list and whose body was found at her home in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, was 31-year-old medical student Ashley Hasti. She and Sarkar were married on June 14, 2011, but they later separated, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Hayes said their separation did not appear to have been amicable, but he stopped short of speculating on a possible motive for Hasti’s killing.
Investigators have been working to determine if there was a “trigger event” that sparked the killings, but so far none has been found.
A license plate reader indicated that Sarkar’s vehicle was in Denver the day before the UCLA shooting.
The vehicle will be taken to an evidence bay for further investigation
At UCLA, the engineering school held a vigil this afternoon at the Court of Sciences to remember Klug, a 39-year-old El Segundo resident and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering who was reported to be highly popular with students and colleagues.
A vigil for Klug was also held on campus Thursday night, organized by the school’s Undergraduate and Graduate Student Associations and attended by more than 1,000 people, according to the school’s online newspaper. The attendees included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Councilman Paul Koretz and UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.
“Stay open to the world,” Garcetti told the crowd. “Don’t cower. Don’t be afraid. We can’t predict when moments happen like this, but we can determine how we respond to them. You responded beautifully and strongly yesterday. Continue that strength.”
Block said, “This is a great community. UCLA students, you are an incredible group of individuals. You give us strength. This is a sad moment, but I am so proud of you.”
Beck said Thursday that Sarkar was heavily armed, carrying two semiautomatic pistols — one used in the murder-suicide and another in his backpack. He was also carrying ammunition magazines and loose rounds of ammunition, indicating he was poised to perpetrate more violence. The guns were legally purchased in Minnesota, according to the LAPD.
A note found by the bodies of Sarkar and Klug in a small office in UCLA’s Boelter Hall “doesn’t refer to suicide,” but it included an instruction to check on Sarkar’s cat — leading authorities to his Minnesota residence and the “kill list,” and ultimately leading to the discovery of the woman’s body, Beck said.
Sarkar was a former doctoral student of Klug’s and a current member of the Klug Research Group; Computational Biomechanics, at UCLA, according to a Klug Research Group publication. He had accused the victim of stealing his computer code and giving it to someone else, according to an online blog post he wrote on March 10.
“My name is Mainak Sarkar. I was this guy’s PhD student. We had personal differences. He cleverly stole all my code and gave it to another student,” he wrote, adding: “He is a very sick person … I urge every new student coming to UCLA to stay away from this guy.”
A source told the Los Angeles Times that the gunman’s claims about Klug were “absolutely untrue.”
“The idea that somebody took his ideas is absolutely psychotic,” the source said, adding that Klug bent over backwards to help Sarkar finish his dissertation and graduate even though the quality of his work was not stellar.
“Bill was a super nice guy,” the source said. “He didn’t want to hurt the guy.”
In his doctoral dissertation, submitted in 2013, Sarkar expressed gratitude to Klug for his help and support, The Times reported.
Beck said investigators are aware of Sarkar’s online postings, but they did not include any threats that might have triggered a UCLA or police investigation. He noted that Sarkar graduated from UCLA in 2013.
Klug was married with two children, aged 9 and 7.
“During this extremely difficult time for our family, we are grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support,” Klug’s wife, Mary Elise Klug, said in a statement released through UCLA.
“This is an indescribable loss. Bill was so much more than my soul mate. I will miss him every day for the rest of my life. Knowing that so many others share our family’s sorrow has provided a measure of comfort.
“That said, we are a very private family, and we need time to heal and recover from this senseless tragedy. At this time, we ask the media to please respect our family’s privacy in and around our home, school and local community during the days and weeks ahead, especially for the sake of my children.”
According to Klug’s online biography, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Westmont College in 1998, a master’s at UCLA in 1999 and a doctorate from Caltech in 2003.
The Klug-Sarkar murder suicide triggered fears that at least one gunman was on a rampage and prompted a massive law enforcement response.
The building where the shooting occurred is part of the Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.
The entire campus was placed on lockdown when the shots rang out, along with three Los Angeles Unified School District schools nearby.