William Scott Klug, 39
William Scott Klug, a 39-year-old white man, was shot and killed Wednesday, June 1, in his office at the UCLA Engineering Building in Westwood, according to Los Angeles County coroner’s records.
Klug, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, was shot in the fourth-floor office about 10 a.m., triggering a massive manhunt for the shooter.
Hundreds of law enforcement authorities converged on the campus, which covers 419 acres. Videos and images on social media showed police in riot gear combing through classrooms across the university with guns drawn, making sure each area was safe before moving on.
Police said that Mainak Sarkar, a former doctoral student, killed himself after storming through a UCLA building and shooting Klug.
After authorities searched Sarkar’s home in Minnesota, they found a “kill list” with three names on it: Klug, another UCLA professor and a woman who lived in a suburb near Sarkar’s home.
The woman was found June 2 inside her Brooklyn Park home, dead from a gunshot wound.
Police records listed the resident as Ashley Hasti, a 31-year-old University of Minnesota medical student whom Sarkar married in 2011.
Police say Sarkar killed the woman, then drove to Los Angeles in his gray, 2003 Nissan Sentra. Klug and Sarkar appeared to have had a friendly relationship that at some point turned sour.
In his doctoral dissertation, submitted in 2013, Sarkar expressed gratitude to the professor for his help and support.
“Thank you for being my mentor,” he wrote. A 2014 doctoral commencement booklet listed Klug as Sarkar’s advisor.
But in recent months, Sarkar lashed out at the professor in online postings. On March 10, Sarkar called Klug a “very sick person” who could not be trusted. “I urge every new student coming to UCLA to stay away from this guy,” he wrote on his blog. “He made me really sick. Your enemy is my enemy. But your friend can do a lot more harm. Be careful about whom you trust.”
According to police, Sarkar had accused Klug of stealing his computer code and giving it to someone else. A source familiar with the relationship called the accusation “absolutely psychotic” and said that Klug had bent over backward to help Sarkar finish his dissertation and graduate.
Sarkar had struggled with severe mental problems, including depression and an inability to study, which compromised his work at UCLA, the source said.
Klug conducted “life-saving research” and specialized in computational biomechanics and the mechanics of biological systems, such as cancer cells, UCLA said. His work led to better understanding of the life cycles of viruses such as HIV, and he was the director of the Klug Research Group, which studied how biological structures’ shape and mechanics affected their function.
He loved surfing and frequently took his family to Los Angeles Dodgers games. Klug earned his undergraduate degree in engineering physics from Westmont College in 1997, his master’s degree in civil engineering at UCLA in 1999 and his PhD in mechanical engineering from Caltech in 2003.
Colleagues described him as brilliant and kind, a rare blend in the competitive world of academic research. “I am absolutely devastated,” said Alan Garfinkel, a professor of integrative biology and physiology who worked with Klug to develop a computer-generated virtual heart. “You cannot ask for a nicer, gentler, sweeter and more supportive guy than William Klug.”
Melissa Gibbons, one of Klug’s former doctoral students, said he was an exceptional mentor.
She recalled that Klug noticed another student struggling in his finite element modeling class and asked Gibbons to tutor her. “He didn’t want to see her fail. To care that much in an undergraduate class says a lot about his character,” she said.