LOS ANGELES – A former University of California, Los Angeles professor was arrested Tuesday after police say he sent an 800-page manifesto riddled with violent threats to former colleagues. Court documents also show that he is accused of previously sending messages saying he would “hunt down” and kill a teacher.
Matthew Harris, 31, was taken into custody in Boulder, Colorado, on Tuesday, an arrest that prompted evacuations and disrupted schools in two states. Police spent hours before his arrest evacuating a nearby elementary school and some frat and sorority homes at the University of Colorado Boulder. Authorities peacefully detained him after a confrontation outside his apartment.
UCLA alerted police after a “concerning email and post” was sent to some faculty at the school on Sunday. early Tuesday, the school said Police confirmed the person was not in California. But all classes were moved online “out of an abundance of caution,” the school said.
Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said UCLA police tracked the suspect to Boulder and alerted local authorities and federal agencies.
Herold said the threats were outlined in an 800-page manifesto sent to UCLA, calling it “very violent and very disturbing.” He said the levels of violence detailed in the pages were “alarming.” The manifesto also included references to Boulder, universities and schoolyards, he said.
“In reviewing parts of the manifesto, we identified thousands of references to violence, stating things like murders, deaths, murders, shootings, bombs, schoolyard massacres,” Herold said.
Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said the suspect attempted to purchase a firearm in November in Colorado but was rebuffed. 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.
Last year, a philosophy professor at the University of California at Irvine received a restraining order against Harris. Court documents show that Harris sent emails to her mother threatening to “hunt down” the teacher and “put bullets in her skull.” Harris’ mother alerted the woman months later.
Harris’s mother and the woman could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Court documents show that in January 2021, Harris emailed her mother and told her that she planned to move closer to the Irvine campus so she could “hunt down” the woman and “put bullets in her skull.” At times, she referenced previous shootings, including Sandy. Hook.
Harris’s mother approached the woman in April and told her she had received disturbing emails from her son that mentioned the woman by name. Harris’s mother had not seen her son in five years and she believed she needed psychiatric help.
“I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do anything and someone got hurt,” she wrote to the woman.
University of California regents filed for a workplace violence restraining order in May, the day after UCLA officials learned that Harris had been released from a mental health facility and was back at work. The Angels.
A temporary restraining order was granted immediately and less than a month later a longer protection order, valid until 2024, was approved.
The woman worked at UC Irvine, which is part of the University of California system and is about 50 miles south of UCLA.
A search of Harris’ records did not immediately turn up any prior criminal charges. Records link Harris to a Los Angeles apartment building in 2020 and list previous addresses in North Carolina and New Jersey.
Herold said his agency contacted the suspect in October about an unspecified incident. She said no one was arrested but did not elaborate on the interaction. Police are investigating her ties to the Boulder community and it’s not clear if she worked for any schools in the area, she said.
Dougherty said his office is considering a series of charges against the suspect and that federal charges could also be added, since the suspect threatened victims across state lines.
Los Angeles police became aware of Harris’s online posts, including YouTube videos, and the manifesto late Monday, Chief Michel Moore said the next day during a police commission meeting. The material indicated that Harris was “potentially planning a mass violence event or shooting at UCLA.”
Moore said Harris was contacted by the agency’s departmental mental evaluation unit in the spring of 2021. It was not immediately known what led to that encounter or what, if anything, happened next.
UCLA officials announced the arrest Tuesday afternoon in emails to faculty and students. In-person classes would resume on Wednesday, the school said.
“The threats made yesterday were frightening to many of us and caused our community to feel vulnerable at an already difficult time,” said Michael Beck, administrative vice chancellor at UCLA. “I offer my deepest gratitude to UCPD and other law enforcement agencies for thoroughly investigating these threats as soon as we became aware of them and for coordinating to locate and arrest the individual in Colorado.”
Los Angeles Times reported that the manifesto included specific threats directed at UCLA and the people who work there along with videos posted on YouTube.
The threats focused on the philosophy department of the school where Harris previously worked, the Times reported. An email sent to the department included profanity and racial references.
The newspaper reported that a YouTube video included with the threats was titled “UCLA PHILOSOPHY (MASS SHOOTING)” and was uploaded on Sunday. The video included references to previous mass shootings, including the 2017 attack during a music festival in Las Vegas. Another video on his page included references to places on the UCLA campus that were added to his “list,” the newspaper reported.
The YouTube channel has since been removed.
Harris worked as a postdoctoral fellow at UCLA, teaching on the philosophy of race and personal identity, according to a UCLA newsletter in 2019 announcing their hiring.
the daily bruinthe school’s student-run newspaper, reported that Harris was suspended in 2021 after allegations that he had sent a pornographic video to a student.
Around that time, his term as a fellow expired.
In light of the incident, UCLA said it was offering advice to students and faculty if needed.
In 2016, UCLA was the scene of a shooting after a former student killed his estranged wife in a Minneapolis suburb and traveled to school, where he fatally shot an engineering professor who had been his mentor, then killed himself.
Contributing: Associated Press
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism