Thursday, December 8

Former UCLA professor threatened to ‘hunt’ professor


LOS ANGELES (AP) — A former University of California, Los Angeles professor who was arrested Tuesday after police say he emailed an 800-page document and posted videos threatening violence against the school had previously sent messages saying he would “hunt down” and kill a professor, according to court documents.

Matthew Harris, 31, was taken into custody in Colorado after a confrontation at his Boulder apartment complex ended peacefully.

The investigations in California and Colorado began this week after Harris, who had taught in the philosophy department at UCLA, sent the email to some of his former students. UCLA officials canceled classes on campus Tuesday and the university’s police department tracked Harris to Boulder and contacted law enforcement there.

University officials did not describe the email, but Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore said Harris was “potentially planning an event of mass violence or shooting at UCLA.” The university has more than 31,000 undergraduate students and 14,000 graduate students.


In Boulder, Police Chief Maris Herold said officials reviewed the manifesto and “identified thousands of references to violence, stating things like murders, deaths, murders, shootings, bombs, schoolyard massacre in Boulder and phrases like ‘burn and attack Boulder outside the University.'”

Herold said police had contact with Harris in October, though no criminal charges were filed and authorities are reviewing reports of that encounter.

Authorities said he tried to buy a firearm in November, but his purchase was denied. Authorities believe the transaction didn’t go through because of a California-based protection order that said he couldn’t buy or possess a firearm.

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Harris received a license from UCLA last year, and a University of California, Irvine philosophy professor received a restraining order against her after she sent her mother emails threatening to “hunt” the professor and “put bullets in her.” in the skull”. Harris’s mother alerted the woman.

Harris’ mother and the woman could not be reached for comment.

Harris was being held in Colorado on state charges and federal charges are possible. It was not immediately known if Harris had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

The police search for Harris began after he sent his former students an email early Sunday morning that was full of slurs against Jews and East Asians, according to the Los Angeles Times. The email included links to what police called a manifesto and videos, the Times reported, including one titled “UCLA PHILOSOPHY (MASS SHOOTING).”

Harris makes racist comments in several of the videos and cryptically names specific locations on the UCLA campus, noting that they were added to her “list,” according to the Times.

The UCLA video included footage of the 2017 mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival, the newspaper reported, as well as clips from “Zero Day,” a 2003 film that was loosely based on the Columbine High School mass shooting. from Colorado.

Harris, who did not appear to have a criminal record, began working at UCLA in the spring of 2019 as a postdoctoral fellow, according to a newsletter from the university’s philosophy department. Her attention was focused on the “philosophy of race, personal identity and questions related to the philosophy of mind”.

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On bruinwalk.com, a website where UCLA students can post anonymous reviews of faculty and other staff members, Harris received low marks. In one review, one student wrote that Harris is “grossly unprofessional.”

“I have no idea how this guy keeps teaching,” another student wrote.

Harris came to UCLA after completing her dissertation, “Continents in Cognition,” at Duke University in 2019. Duke is where she first met the woman who was the subject of the restraining order. They had “minimal contact,” but he reached out to her about career advice in September 2020 because he had recently moved to Los Angeles, according to court documents.

The woman was initially happy to meet with Harris, but “their initial interaction left her very uncomfortable and concerned about his behavior,” court documents say.

Harris allegedly “began an aggressive campaign” of texting and emailing the woman, leading her to fear for her safety. She told him to stop contacting her in March 2021.

Separately, UCLA that month placed him on investigative leave for “predatory behavior” when the school discovered he was sending violent and pornographic content to students, according to court documents.

In April, Harris’s mother contacted the professor, who told her that four months earlier her son had emailed her saying he wanted to move closer to the Irvine campus where the professor worked so he could kill her, records show. court documents. UC Irvine is about 50 miles (80.5 kilometers) south of UCLA.

“I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do anything and someone got hurt,” Harris’s mother wrote to the woman. Her mother had not seen her son in five years and believed she needed psychiatric help, court documents show.

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University of California regents filed for a workplace violence restraining order last May, a day after UCLA officials learned Harris had been released from a mental health facility and was back. in Los Angeles. A temporary restraining order was granted immediately and less than a month later a longer protection order, valid until 2024, was approved.

Court documents say the UCLA police department and its Behavior Intervention Team were aware of the threats against the professor and contacted the FBI.

UCLA’s director of media relations did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday about the restraining order. The FBI did not immediately comment.

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Slevin reported from Boulder, Colorado. Associated Press writers John Antczak and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles and Thomas Peipert in Denver contributed.


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