Colleagues and a former school teacher of Indian-American Mainak Sarkar have expressed shock and sadness over news of the researcher fatally shooting his wife and a University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) professor before turning the gun on himself.
Sarkar, 38, fatally shot engineering professor William Klug, 39, in his office at the UCLA on Wednesday. Klug had refused to give him a passing grade.
Before killing Klug, he killed his estranged wife Ashley Hasti, who was found dead in a house they shared in Brooklyn Park, in Minnesota.
He passed his ICSE exam from St. Michael’s School in Durgapur town of West Bengal’s Burdwan district, before clearing Class 11 and 12 from another shcool.
Lily Chowdhury, biology teacher at St. Michael’s, described the news of the shootout as “very shocking”.
“He was a very brilliant student, meritorious student, I should say. He was one of the toppers of the class. He was the pride of our school,” said Chowdhury.
She remembers Sarkar as “very well behaved”.
“I knew him till his ICSE. He was reserved, not the very outgoing type. I should not say that he was an introvert. But yes, he was not the type who would go around and make friends very quickly,” she said.
Some Indian researchers in the US said they were “discomfited” that Sarkar, who was an IIT Kharagpur graduate, could commit such a heinous crime.
Researcher Sohini Ray who was in “lockdown” for around two hours along with her lab mates in a UCLA building said taking someone’s life was not justifiable.
“It’s a very sad affair. We do not know what transpired internally but taking someone’s life is not justifiable and whether the person had tried to solve the problem through another method before taking the drastic step is not clear. Not just as a Bengali but as an Indian, I feel sad,” Ray told a local TV channel.
According to Sriparna Gangopadhyay, a scientist at the University of California, the report sent shock waves through the academic community.
“It was shocking to learn that something of that sort had happened in an educational institution. I felt a bit discomfited to learn he was an Indian,” Gangopadhyay said.
Sarkar had written the names of Klug and his wife in a note, titled “Kill List”, that police found while searching his residence.
The third person Sarkar intended to kill was another professor at UCLA. However, the faculty member was off-campus on Wednesday.
Police said that “a dispute over intellectual property” was tied to the UCLA shooting, which put the campus on lockdown for hours on Wednesday.
Sarkar felt that Klug had released information “that harmed him”.
In a blog post uploaded on March 10 under his name, Sarkar wrote that the professor “stole all my code and gave it another student”. Sarkar branded him a “sick man”.
Before enrolling at UCLA, Sarkar earned a Master’s degree at Stanford University.
In the US, he also had a stint as a research assistant at the University of Texas and worked as a software developer.