UCLA: Shooting for Better Security
This past Wednesday, Mainak Sarkar arrived on the campus of the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) at approximately 10 a.m. PST. Sarkar was armed with two semi-automatic pistols when he entered one of the faculty office buildings located on the campus grounds. His target was Dr. William Klug, a professor at the university. According to later investigations into Sarkar, Klug had been an academic mentor of his. At some point, Sarkar blamed Klug for stealing academic material that Sarkar thought belonged to him. On Wednesday, Sarkar vengefully shot Dr. Klug in his office. Sarkar then turned one of his weapons on himself.
UCLA employees immediately notified all the appropriate contacts when they were alerted by the sound of gunshots. The UCLA police department as well as LAPD promptly arrived and secured the area, and thankfully no one else was harmed. It was reported that Sarkar had multiple magazines of ammunition on his person, so the opportunity for further violence was certainly possible. Additionally, Sarkar’s estranged wife, Ashley Hasti, was the first of Sarkar’s two victims. Hasti was found shot and killed in Minnesota by bullets that matched the ballistics of those used against Dr. Klug. A search warrant of Sarkar’s Minnesota home revealed a “kill list” of people that Sarkar had targeted. There were three names: Hasti, Klug, and another professor who was not on the campus the day of the attack.
I have written time and time again about how incidents of active-shooter and threat-related violence are often the product of an individual who has had a sudden series of changes for the worse in that person’s life. It is statistically the highest percentage indicator for threat-related behavior. Mainak Sarkar appears to be a textbook study in this statistic. Married in 2011 and already estranged from his wife after five years, there clearly were some personal issues at home. So much so that Sarkar was willing to take the life of his spouse. To increase the personal stress in his life, the thought that academic material he supposedly created was taken from him. I am not saying that Dr. Klug did this, I am saying that Sarkar perceived that this was happening. For Sarkar, the “perception is reality” was quite real.
Until we better train our community to identify these indicators in people, we will continue to see this kind of reactionary violence. It won’t change.
But there is also something about the UCLA shooting that has disturbed me even more than a lack of intervention into Sarkar’s deteriorating behavior…. It is the lack of preparation for safety on behalf of UCLA. Granted, they had measures in place to notify the students and faculty of the possible attack; they had a well-trained police department to respond quickly and promptly to the attack; they had a coordinated effort with LAPD to secure and control the threat.
And yet, the campus had no door locks for the classroom doors.
You read that correctly. With all of its emergency response planning measures, all of its signs promoting “gun-free zones” (which, by the way, were not effective) and its notification systems through the internet, social media and student text messages, someone at UCLA made a colossal blunder and forgot to buy door locks for the classrooms.
Students reported later that they were instructed to lockdown in classrooms that had no means to lock the door. They were forced to secure the doors with desks, bookshelves, anything that they could find.
Every elementary, middle and high school in America has locks on their doors. This wasn’t a school that is suffering for funding, or enrollment. Last I checked, door locks are pretty readily available at the local hardware stores. I’m even going to bet that the university would have gotten some kind of discount for buying in bulk.
I guess they thought that those “gun free zone” signs were sufficient enough to take care of the issue. I mean, those signs have been so effective thus far.
Jason Wells is the President and Founder of the National Advancements for Proactive Safety, an educational non-profit organization committed to providing a safe community through intervention processes. He is a former Special Agent with the United States Secret Service, and holds a Masters of Science with highest honors in Strategic Security and Protection Management. Mr. Wells is currently pursuing his doctorate in Strategic Security with a focus on proactive interventions to stop threat-related behavior. Additionally, he is a weekly contributing writer to the online publication Robious Corridor and has been featured in the Huffington Post. His first book on proactive safety will be out this Summer. Jason can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.