Crime & Justice

UCLA shooting update: Gun used in Minnesota, UCLA shootings appears to be the same

UCLA gunman Mainak Sarkar's vehicle is parked on the street, Friday, June 3, 2016, in Los Angeles. The former UCLA graduate student killed a woman in Minnesota before carrying two semi-automatic pistols and a grudge back to Los Angeles, where he fatally shot the young professor on Wednesday he once called a mentor and then killed himself.
UCLA gunman Mainak Sarkar's vehicle is parked on the street, Friday, June 3, 2016, in Los Angeles. The former UCLA graduate student killed a woman in Minnesota before carrying two semi-automatic pistols and a grudge back to Los Angeles, where he fatally shot the young professor on Wednesday he once called a mentor and then killed himself.
Jae C. Hong/AP
UCLA gunman Mainak Sarkar's vehicle is parked on the street, Friday, June 3, 2016, in Los Angeles. The former UCLA graduate student killed a woman in Minnesota before carrying two semi-automatic pistols and a grudge back to Los Angeles, where he fatally shot the young professor on Wednesday he once called a mentor and then killed himself.
Los Angeles police detective Meghan Aguilar sets up an illustration of a Minnesota license plate of the missing car driven by Mainak Sarkar at a news conference on the investigation into a murder-suicide on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles Thursday, June 2, 2016.
Damian Dovarganes/AP


Police said Friday that preliminary ballistics tests on shell casings found at shooting scenes in Minnesota and at UCLA show they were fired from the same gun.

Officers also said they'd recovered a handgun and several canisters of fuel from a car belonging to Mainak Sarkar, the assailant in an attack at UCLA Tuesday that left a professor dead. 

"Preliminary ballistic comparisons of the shell casings recovered from the UCLA and Minnesota homicides, they appear to match," LAPD Commander Matt Blake said. "Now, further analysis is needed to confirm this, but preliminary indications are that the casings were likely fired from [Mainak] Sarkar's weapon."

The fuel may have been used to help Sarkar travel from Minnesota to California, LAPD Capt. Billy Hayes said at a Friday press conference. There's no evidence the canisters were intended for use as explosives, he added.

"Nothing nefarious with it," he said, "probably just used to fuel the vehicle as he was driving." 

The vehicle — a gray sedan with Minnesota license plate 720 KTW – was found Friday parked in a residential area of Culver City by a citizen riding their bicycle. An LAPD bomb squad unit searched the car.

It was then transported to the LAPD's evidence bay for investigators to search for evidence about why Sarkar did what he did, Blake said.

The neighborhood would have been familiar to Sarkar; it's where he'd lived around 2013 when he attended UCLA as a graduate student Hayes said.

A Culver City bus transfer ticket was found in Sarkar's pocket by officials. 

"We determined that when Sarkar went to UCLA, during the timeframe that he was here, up until 2013, at some point in time he lived in the Culver City area at an address that's in this area," Hayes said. "What we believe is [...] that he parked the vehicle here and took a bus route that he would have taken on a regular basis to UCLA. And that is the bus transfer that we found in his pocket."

Officers also detailed some of what they found at Sarkar's home in St. Paul: additional ammunition, several computers, a ballistic vest and prescription medicine similar to valium.

"I don't know the exact nature of it, but it appears to have been possibly valium or lorazepam, something along that line," Hayes said.

Sarkar is believed to have shot and killed his former adviser — UCLA professor William Klug — on the school's campus Wednesday morning before killing himself.

It's not clear what Sarkar's motivation may have been, though Hayes said investigators were looking at postings that suggested Sarkar believed he had been wronged by Klug.

"There's nothing that we've been able to confirm," Hayes said. "As has been reported in the media and on social media, there appears to have been a dispute between Sarkar and two of the professors at UCLA — at least on Sarkar's part — that he believed they may have taken some intellectual properties or something related to his thesis when he was going through school there at that point in time. Apparently he's harbored those feelings over the past three years since his graduation, but we've not been able to determine any trigger event that would have led to this or his murder of his wife."

After the shooting at UCLA, it was discovered that Sarkar had likely killed his estranged wife, Ashley Hasti, in Minnesota before driving in the gray sedan from Minnesota to L.A. Police found her body at her home in a Minneapolis suburb Wednesday night. A "kill list" found at Sarkar's home prompted them to check on her. 

Sarkar married Hasti in 2011. A relative said they were estranged, but it remains unclear how long they had been apart or if whether they were divorced.

On Friday, Hayes said there were some social media postings police were investigating that suggested it "wasn't an amicable separation." 

He added they had found nothing to indicate that Sarkar had an accomplice.

Vigils were held at UCLA Thursday afternoon and Friday to remember Klug. 

This story has been updated.