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UCLA Shooting: Mainak Sarkar Kills Professor over 'Code Theft'

The IIT Kharagpur alumnus resented his professor, accusing him of stealing codes he wrote for his PhD, and passing them on to another student
BY Uttara Choudhury |   03-06-2016
An FBI SWAT team arrives at the scene at UCLA after campus shooting
Above: An FBI SWAT team arrives at the scene at UCLA after the shooting

Mainak Sarkar, a 38-year-old IIT Kharagpur alumnus, walked into Professor William Klug's office on Wednesday at the University of California, Los Angeles' Henry Samueli School of Engineering, and shot him dead. He then turned the gun on himself, said the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). The incident sent shockwaves throughout the UCLA campus.

Klug, who was only a year older than Sarkar, was an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, the very subject the Indian student got his undergrad degree from at IIT Kharagpur in 2000. According to Sarkar’s LinkedIn page, he worked briefly as a software developer in Bangalore before coming to the US to earn a Master's degree in aeronautics from Stanford University in 2005. He then enlisted as a doctoral student at UCLA with Klug as his advisor.

LAPD chief Charlie Beck said that Sarkar was involved in a long-running dispute with two UCLA professors because he believed that they had stolen computer codes he wrote as part of his PhD, and that they had passed them on to another student.

"William Klug, UCLA professor, is not the kind of person you think of as a professor. He is a very sick person. I urge every new student coming to UCLA to stay away from this guy," Sarkar wrote on March 10 in a blog ominously slugged "Long Dark Tunnel".

He then mulled on the competitive world of academic research, and added: "I was this guy's Phd student. We had personal differences. He cleverly stole all my code and gave it to another student. He made me really sick."

Klug's friends, students and associates rubbished the accusations, saying they were "absolutely untrue" and "psychotic".

"William was extremely generous to this student, who was a subpar student," an unnamed source told the LA Times about Klug, a father of two kids. "He helped him out and interceded for him academically."

Meanwhile, Ashley Hasti, 31, died of a gunshot wound to the head, almost certainly at the hands of her ex-husband Sarkar, who listed her on his 'kill list'. She was found dead in her Minnesota home hours after Sarkar fatally shot his former professor in UCLA and then killed himself. Police say they found a 'kill list' at Sarkar's home, which included the names of his former PhD supervisor Klug, and Hasti alongside that of another UCLA professor who used to teach Sarkar. The LAPD says Sarkar likely intended to kill that professor as well, but may have been unable to find him because he was not on campus on that fatal Wednesday.

On the UCLA website Sarkar is listed as part of the Klug Research Group, a team of six postdoctoral researchers and PhD students working on biomechanics. Two others, besides Sarkar, are of Indian origin: Ankush Aggarwal and Shankarjee Krishnamoorthi.

Shockingly, the June 1 type of lunatic gun violence is played out with chilling regularity across campuses in America. At least nine Indian students have been killed at US universities since the April 2007 campus shooting at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg — the deadliest in US history.

This is the first time that an Indian student has resorted to picking up a gun and going on a rampage on a US campus. Sarkar was armed with two 9mm semi-automatic pistols when he arrived at UCLA, Beck added, saying at least one was purchased legally in Minnesota. The police chief said Sarkar also had several fully loaded magazines and additional loose ammunition.

"This is a tragedy, but if there is a silver lining here, it's that Sarkar could have done a lot more damage with the amount of ordnance that he brought," LAPD chief Beck told reporters.

At a White House session with students, US President Barack Obama earlier acknowledged that incidents of “gun violence on US campuses are off the charts. We're the only advanced, developed country on earth that puts up with this. And it happens now once a week. And it's a one-day story."

During his presidency, Obama has issued 23 executive orders related to gun violence in an attempt to take whatever modest steps he can to rein in America's gun culture. But it's still very easy to buy a gun in America. Gun buyers don't even have to go through a background check when they make a purchase at a gun show.

Uttara Choudhury is Editor, North America, for TV 18’s Firstpost news site. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London.

Related stories:
Gun control on US campuses
Straight talk: laws, campuses, and guns

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