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Saturday 17 March 2018

Estranged wife on university gunman's triple 'kill list'

An undated photo of Ashley Hasti and Mainak Sarkar, who, records show, married in 2011 (Facebook/AP)
An undated photo of Ashley Hasti and Mainak Sarkar, who, records show, married in 2011 (Facebook/AP)
UCLA students leave condolence notes at the foot of the campus' Bruin Bear statue (AP)

A former University of California graduate student killed his estranged wife in Minnesota before carrying two semi-automatic pistols and a grudge back to Los Angeles, where he gunned down a young professor he once called a mentor before killing himself.

The two victims were on a "kill list" that Mainak Sarkar had composed, as well as a second professor authorities believe he intended to kill but could not find on the bustling Los Angeles campus, police chief Charlie Beck said.

Authorities did not identify the unharmed professor or the woman, but a law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation said the woman on the list was Ashley Hasti.

Ms Hasti's grandmother, Jean Johnson, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that her granddaughter and Sarkar split up about a year after they married in 2011, and Ms Hasti moved back to her home town of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

The two did not divorce because Ms Hasti could not afford one, Ms Johnson said.

"They just didn't get along," she said. "The only enemy she had was him, I guess. I never thought he would do something like that."

Ms Hasti was a medical student at the University of Minnesota and expected to graduate in spring, Ms Johnson said. She said Ms Hasti had not mentioned any animosity with Sarkar since they parted.

Authorities pieced together the case as most classes resumed a day after thousands of students and staff members were locked down on the sprawling grounds of UCLA.

Its normally tranquil paths and hallways were filled by a small army of officers clad in body armour and wielding high-powered rifles.

The investigation unfolded rapidly based on a note Sarkar left in the office where he killed professor William Klug on Wednesday. It mentioned the second professor, who also belonged to UCLA's engineering faculty, and asked anyone who read it to check on Sarkar's cat in St Paul, Minnesota.

At Sarkar's apartment, authorities found his list of three planned targets. They checked the home of the woman in the nearby town of Brooklyn Park and found her body.

Gordy Aune, the local neighbourhood watch commander, said Ms Hasti lived there with her father, adding that they were quiet and kept to themselves.

Ms Hasti's uncle, Mark Fitzgibbons, told NBC News: "He (Sarkar) was a nice, quiet young man. I don't know what happened to make him do this. I am just as shocked as everyone else."

Sarkar, 38, had disparaged Prof Klug online and the academic knew of his contempt, but police had not uncovered any death threats, Mr Beck said. The writings contained "some harsh language, but certainly nothing that would be considered homicidal", he said.

A blog post written in March by someone identifying himself as Sarkar asserted that Prof Klug "cleverly stole all my code and gave it (to) another student" and "made me really sick".

The blog continues: "Your enemy is your enemy. But your friend can do a lot more harm. Be careful about whom you trust. Stay away from this sick guy."

Mr Beck said cited conversations in which UCLA officials told investigators the former PhD student's claims of stolen code were "a making of his own imagination".

Sarkar and Prof Klug, 39, were once close. In his 2013 dissertation about using engineering to understand the human heart, the student thanked the professor "for all his help and support. Thank you for being my mentor".

Authorities believe Sarkar drove to Los Angeles in the past few days with two handguns he bought legally in Minnesota. With the weapons and ammunition Sarkar carried, "he could have caused many more fatalities than the one", Mr Beck said.

At Sarkar's apartment building in St Paul, the only people who would open their doors on Thursday said they did not know Sarkar and that police had been there Wednesday night.

Sarkar's LinkedIn page shows he obtained a master's degree at Stanford University after graduating in 2000 from the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur with a degree in aerospace engineering.

He most recently was listed as an engineering analyst at a Findlay, Ohio, company called Endurica. Company president Will Mars said Sarkar left in August 2014.

Colleagues and friends described Prof Klug as a kind, devoted family man and teacher who coached youth baseball in his adopted home town of El Segundo and did not appear to have conflicts with anyone. He was married with two children, a nine-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter.

"Bill was an absolutely wonderful man, just the nicest guy you would ever want to meet," said Alan Garfinkel, a biology and physiology professor who worked with Prof Klug to build a computer model of a "virtual heart" that researchers could use to test drugs without harming anyone.

Fellow mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Jeff Eldredge met Prof Klug 17 years ago when they were doctoral students at Caltech and they joined the UCLA faculty on the same day.

"I had looked forward to us growing into old grouchy professors together," Prof Eldredge said.

Mrs Klug released a statement saying: "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."

Press Association

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