A former UCLA lecturer is in custody for allegedly making threats toward the university after emails with a link to an 800-page manifesto containing “very alarming” accounts of violence led investigators to Boulder, Colorado, according to authorities.
Upon reviewing the emails, UCLA police tracked the author, identified as Matthew Christopher Harris, 31, to Colorado, Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold announced on Tuesday.
“Upon reviewing parts of the manifesto, we identified thousands of references to violence, stating things such as ‘killing, death, murder, shootings, bombs, schoolyard massacre in Boulder,’ and phrases like ‘burn and attack Boulder’ outside of the university,” Herold said.
“The level of violence that we saw in the manifesto was obviously so alarming,” said the chief. “I can tell you it was very violent, very disturbing.”
The Boulder PD SWAT team was activated shortly before 8 a.m. local time and nearby schools, homes, and businesses were evacuated while the suspect’s apartment was surrounded.
A crisis-intervention team and negotiators reached Harris by phone and after speaking to him several times very briefly, took him into custody without incident, Herold said.
It is unclear whether Harris has an attorney.
“Today was a scary day for the people of Boulder,” said Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty.
Harris was being held on state charges, but Dougherty’s office later said the suspect was being transferred to federal custody as of Tuesday evening and is expected to face federal charges because “the alleged threats were made across state lines and victims are located in California.”
Harris attempted to buy a gun in early November, but was denied, Herold said.
“Based on a protection order that was issued in the state of California, there was a national database that included a provision that he was not allowed to purchase or possess a firearm. Based on that, we believe at this point – and again, it’s early in the investigation – that was the basis for the denial when he attempted to purchase the firearm,” said US Attorney Cole Finegan.
Boulder Police previously made contact with the suspect last October and are still reviewing that incident. No charges were filed, the chief said.
Threats allegedly made against UCLA staff and students
UCLA moved classes on Tuesday as word of the threats emerged and will return to in-person classes Wednesday, according to a memo sent to students.
“We are greatly relieved to share that law enforcement officers in Colorado have taken into custody the individual who made threats against some members of our UCLA community yesterday,” Assistant Vice Chancellor Suzanne L. Seplow wrote in a message to students.
According to reporting from the Los Angeles Times, Harris sent email threats to students and faculty members. Leaders of the school’s philosophy department, where the former lecturer had worked, warned students and faculty about the threats toward the department, according to emails from the department to students and faculty that the Times obtained.
The messages included a link to his YouTube video and a manifesto outlining threats, reported UCLA’s student newspaper, the Daily Bruin, citing communications from the philosophy department to students and faculty. It was not clear whether the Harris sent any direct threats of a mass shooting, the paper said.
“I want to inform you that the UCLA Police Department is aware of a concerning email and posting sent to some members of the UCLA community today and we are actively engaged with out-of-state law enforcement and federal agencies at this time. We will update our Bruin community later this evening as we learn more,” UCLA Vice Chancellor Michael Beck said Monday night in an Instagram post.
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said police had contact with the person last spring and it involved the mental evaluation unit.
UCLA’s shift to remote learning came on the same day several historically Black colleges and universities had to lock down or postpone classes because of bomb threats. Tuesday was the first day of Black History Month.
Monday was the first day UCLA students were on campus for in-person learning after the Omicron coronavirus surge forced the university to move classes online.
CNN’s Steve Almasy and Jennifer Feldman contributed to this report.