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Professor killed at UCLA was brilliant and kind, colleagues say


    Los Angeles Police officers search the UCLA campus near the scene of a fatal shooting at the University of California, Los Angeles today.


    Los Angeles Police officers walk by the Mathematical Sciences Building on the UCLA campus after a fatal shooting at the University of California, Los Angeles, today.

  • In this image made from video, police respond to a report of a possible shooter at the University of California, Los Angeles today in Los Angeles. (KABC-7 via AP)

  • Police responded to a fatal shooting at the University of California, Los Angeles, this morning. (KABC-7 via AP)

LOS ANGELES » UCLA students went to school Wednesday expecting to take on routine end-of-school-year tasks: final exams and presentations. But those concerns were forgotten around 10 a.m., when cellphones buzzed to life across campus, announcing that a shooting had taken place.

Within minutes, thousands of students found themselves racing for cover, building makeshift barricades against classroom doors that wouldn’t lock and arming themselves with anything they could find as information about the gunfire — some of it rumor about a wave of assailants — spread across campus via text messages and social media.

In the end, it was a murder-suicide involving two men inside an engineering building near the campus’ south side, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said.

Several sources identified the victim as William S. Klug, 39, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering who studied the interaction between mechanics and biology and was the father of two young children.

Klug, 39, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, was described as both brilliant and kind, a rare blend in the competitive world of academic research,colleagues said.

“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 Ph.D. 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.

Klug, an El Segundo resident who was married with two young children, loved surfing and frequently took his family to Los Angeles Dodgers games. He 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 Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 2003.

With school shootings so often in the news in recent years, many UCLA students feared that the situation unfolding on their normally serene campus might evolve into something far deadlier.

“It’s unfortunate it happened here,” said Andrew Avelino, 23, a senior majoring in history. “You see school shootings happening on the news at high schools, on other campuses, at other places. But you never thought it would happen here until it does.”

The wave of panic and adrenaline, slew of campus alerts and swarms of police were all too familiar for Jeremy Peschard. The 22-year-old geography major transferred to UCLA from UC Santa Barbara, near where a student’s rampage left six people dead and 14 injured in Isla Vista in 2014.

“It’s crazy to go through this again,” said Peschard, who said he experienced flashbacks of the attack as he hid inside a UCLA office. “It’s sad that it’s normalized at this point. It’s like I almost know the drill.”

Wednesday’s shooting took place inside the university’s engineering complex in a small office, according to Beck, who confirmed at a noon news conference that the shooter was one of the two dead men.

“The campus is now safe,” he said.

Authorities did not identify the victims and a motive was not immediately clear. Andy Neiman, the LAPD’s chief spokesman, confirmed a note was found at the scene, but investigators had not determined whether it was connected to the shooting.

Based on the appearances of the deceased, police believed that a professor was shot by someone young enough to be a student, who then turned the gun on himself, a law enforcement source also told the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz, whose district includes UCLA, said LAPD officers had told him it appeared “a professor was the victim” and that little was known about the shooter.

When police first discovered the two men who had been fatally shot, they feared they were the first victims of an active shooter, Koretz said.

“We’re at a point in this country where there’s some kind of small massacre every day, somewhere,” he said.

The campus was locked down for about two hours, ending around 12:05 p.m. Classes were canceled after the shooting but will resume Thursday, the university said.

The shooting prompted a massive response from local and federal law enforcement. Police officers in riot gear ran across campus, guns and battering rams drawn, while students exited buildings with their hands above their heads.

Neiman said the first 911 caller reported at least three gunshots and possible victims. A number of additional 911 calls and social media postings suggesting there was an active shooter led police to send hundreds of officers toward Westwood.

“It’s much easier to tell people it’s OK to come out, than to have to go and tell their families that they’re not coming home,” Neiman said.

Students hid in buildings across campus. Many said they struggled to lock the doors of the classrooms where they sought shelter and were forced to use their belts, nearby projectors and furniture to barricade themselves against any potential threat.

While Beck said there were no other suspects, many students said they received mass text messages and social media blasts announcing that as many as four shooters may have been roaming the campus.

“There’s a ton of information spreading over social media and group messages and it’s hard for everyone to sort out what is true and what isn’t,” Rafi Sands, vice president of UCLA’s student government, said as he hid with 30 other students inside Haines Hall during the lockdown. “They are saying there are multiple shooters, one near here.”

Christos Kampouridis, 23, said he found the door to his engineering class inside Boelter Hall locked at 9:50 a.m., then turned to find a man with a gun walking through a nearby hallway. The man, who had a rifle at his side and appeared to be wearing a tactical belt, yelled, “Come here.”

Kampouridis said he fled immediately, and shouted at nearby students to run. He burst out of the building and called 911, then began sending messages to friends and posting social media updates urging them to “stay away from Engineering.”

He was unsure whether he saw a police officer or the gunman, but wanted desperately to warn friends either way.

While some students rode out the lockdown hidden behind barricades, others desperately tried to flee the campus after they were unable to find shelter.

Maria Shafer said she ran out of her Spanish final in the Public Affairs building after the campus issued the first shooting alert. Shafer and about 20 other students ran into several locked doors as police sirens blared and helicopter roared overhead. They ended up climbing over bushes and sprinting across Sunset Boulevard before they found safety in the yard of a Bel-Air home.

“We didn’t know where to go, we were trying to get as far away from campus as possible,” she said. “The scariest part was running through the campus after we had gotten that alert.”

Mehwish Khan, 21, said she ran to the Charles E. Young Research Library, where many other students were hiding. Around 10:45 a.m., she and others had barricaded themselves in a restroom where they texted family and friends who were all giving different information about possible shooters.

“We are getting messages from all over,” she told a Times reporter in a text message.

Many students spoke with reporters only via text to adhere to UCLA protocol that asks students not to speak on their phones in such situations, they said.

Sands, 20, of Oakland, said it took several minutes for people on campus to realize the seriousness of the situation.

“We get a lot of Bruin Alerts for small things,” he said. “It took a while for everyone to realize this is serious.”

Nick Terry, a 29-year-old architecture student who was driving to UCLA from Silver Lake when he heard about the shooting, said he was more angry than scared.

“It just seems so pointless,” he said. “Two days left of school and it’s going to end on this note?”

Times staff writers Sonali Kohli, Ruben Vives, Richard Winton, Brittny Mejia, Angel Jennings, James Queally and Joseph Serna, and Times Community News staffer Alene Tchekmedyian, contributed to this report.

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        • By mid-May, the Major Cities Chiefs Association says of crime:
          -Las Vegas up 81 percent compared to last year
          -Dallas up 73 percent
          -Chicago up 69.9 percent
          -Newark up 60 percent
          -Arlington, Texas, is up 100 percent
          -Washington, D.C., is up 6 percent

      • The shooter was a Muslim. If you read the papers and his facebook comments you can surmise part of the reason of being so violent is because of being raised or believed in the Muslim Religion. Allahu Akbar

        • reported in what he wrote in fb: “William Klug, UCLA professor is not the kind of person when you think of a professor. He is a very sick person. I urge every new student coming to UCLA to stay away from this guy,” Sarkar wrote in the post. “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.”

        • Once someone talks, Your enemy is My enemy, that phrase should automatically ring a bell in your head. And can it be that he himself Sakar was talking about himself, “But your friend can do a lot more harm. Be careful about whom you trust”. Sarkar shot em dead. I mean if he thought he was Klug’s friend and vice versa. Who is the sick Sarkar is talking of?

    • This is the norm in this country. Gun violence will never end cause there is no way that you can get guns off the streets. Like to see which politician will be the first to comment on this.

    • When you arm all citizens with guns! Whens the last time you saw a criminal walk into a police department filled with cops with guns and start shooting at the cops?

      • Right, because that theory is extremely successful in Iraq, or Afghanistan….And there have been tons of incidents where people have shot officers.

        • Don’t throw wars into the mix because that is a completely different situation. I take it you know that in wars fighters/soldiers/rebels/terrorists are instructed to shoot the enemy whether they like it or not. They must keep shooting since cowardice/desertion is not even an option otherwise they face execution from within their own. In normal society criminals don’t have such a hierarchy and requirement except a few drug cartels which don’t normally mess with the general public.

        • A completely armed citizenry is basically a war zone. Heck they don’t even do that in Israel. Many parts of Africa are armed, as you suggest, and that isn’t a great situation either, is it?

        • IRT advertiser1, just put on your thinking cap and get those two brain halves to communicate logically for a second. Imagine you’re a criminal and you’re going to shoot someone to rob them. You now face two potential prospects in front of you:
          1. an armed citizen
          2. an unarmed citizen

          Please let me know which one is the easier target and which one you would pick and why.

    • Maybe in this case when kids stop being told they are perfect. I have a friend who use to work there heard the shooter was a grade student under the professor and he was told he wasn’t doing well. He couldn’t take the disappointment. Maybe millennials see psychiatrists now because they can’t take any criticism.This could be true and maybe not, but it gives you something to think about for sure.

        • Parents and teachers should stop saying good job unless they mean it. As usual we’ve gone from one extreme to the other. Instead of never praising our kids, we now over praise our kids. Maybe we should just shut up and say nothing.

    • I’m guessing it’s unlikely to be an Illegal Mexican, they don’t normally commit suicide, because they know that the sanctuary city of Los Angeles will release the illegal criminals in less than 30 days back into the shanty-towns in South Central Los Angeles due to overcrowding of their jails and immense political pressure from the LaRaza movement that’s in place in Los Angeles.

      • Dragoninwater don’t just say anything that comes to mind. Please cite facts so that readers can analyze your statements as to their veracity. Don’t know of L.A judicial practices but your statement makes it seem as a pervasive practice. Please link it to sites so that we can judge for ourselves.

        • airsumo,

          I disagree that the Star-Advertiser comments section needs to be cluttered with lists of selected “cut and pasted” links and citations. Instead of being directed, if you’re accessing this site by smart phone or computer, why not just direct yourself? In this specific case, just Google “Sanctuary City Los Angeles” and there the answers to your answers will be, along with many, many links if you care to pursue them.

          Keep in mind, this site is in no way a reputable academic publication. Readers need to be proactive and verify “facts” for themselves. That means not relying on the often prejudiced selection of links and sites promoted by others. You all have minds, so use them.

        • One other thing, search engines run similar algorithms but don’t be surprised if you get different search results using different search engines. The moral: don’t just limit your searches to using just Google.

          And if you’re currently serving in the armed forces you probably already know that you can access government portals that allow you to search for academic publications for free. You may as well use them if Uncle Sugar is picking up the tab.

        • I’m not the journalist nor is this a courtroom so I won’t waste my time trying to reference every item. Feel free to research anything I post and feel free to debate with me if you feel anything I posted might not accurate. If you’re going to bother to accuse me of possibly spreading falsities then show me your sources disproving my conclusion and I’ll gladly show you my sources for a rebuttal.

  • Am a gun owner whose many revolvers, pistols, rifles, shotguns, sword and dagger are store in a steel safe 4’X 5′ with 2 massive locks whose hasp cannot be compromised by bolt cutters. Mu ammunition is store separately in a locked cabinet located in the underground garage of my condo building. We live in a gated community. Have fabricated a 45 colt with ordered parts. Am a life member of the NRA.

    • Living in a gated community with its inherent security obviously influences your choice of firearms and ammunition access. Myself? Depending on the mood I’m in or the historic period I’m currently studying, my “go to” house gun could be anything from a 1940s era M1911A1, 1950s era Czech CZ 52 (four of them), 1950s East German Makarov (the best of the Makarovs), a 1980s Portuguese-built Browning Hi-Power, or a SIG Sauer P226 or P228. If I’m in a nostalgic phase, then out come the Smith & Wesson Model 19 Combat Magnum or M27 or M29 or M58. If I feel the mood for a contemporary wheelgun then the .44 Magnum Ruger Redhawk is ready to go.

      Be aware though, I subscribe to the wisdom that a handgun is only a means to get to your long gun. In my case that would mostly be a 6.5mm Grendel or a trusty Remington 12-gauge slug gun.

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