UCLA campus sign
Photo by Clancy O’Dessky

Classes at UCLA were taught remotely Tuesday in response to a video and violence-laden manifesto posted online by a former lecturer — who was later arrested in Colorado — that authorities said referenced a mass shooting and threatened philosophy department members.

Matthew Christopher Harris, 31, a former postdoctoral fellow, posted the video and 800-page manifesto making “specific threats” to people in the university’s philosophy department, resulting in the school’s decision to cancel in-person classes on Tuesday, authorities said.

Harris was tracked down Tuesday at an apartment building in Boulder, Colorado, where police evacuated a nearby elementary school and some sorority and fraternity buildings at the University of Colorado. They also issued shelter-in-place warnings to 65 homes in the area. Harris was taken into custody around midday without incident following a brief standoff.

Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold told reporters early Tuesday afternoon that her agency was contacted by UCLA police Monday night. She said investigators reviewed parts of Harris’ manifesto, which she said threatened violence at both UCLA and in Boulder.

“Upon reviewing parts of the manifesto, we identified thousands of references of violence, stating things such as killing, death, murder, shootings, bombs, schoolyard massacre in Boulder, and phrases like burn and attack Boulder outside the university,” Herold said.

The rampant violence outlined in the manifesto led to the sweeping law enforcement response to Harris’ apartment Tuesday, Herold said.

“The level of violence that we saw in the manifesto was obviously so alarming, we have not made connections yet across states and that’s why we have federal partners looking at this as well,” she said. “But I can tell you it was very violent and it was very disturbing.”

Authorities were searching the apartment where Harris was located Tuesday afternoon, so it was unclear if he was in possession of any weapons.

Authorities also said Harris tried to purchase a gun in November in Colorado, but he was denied because of a previous protective order that had been issued against him in California. Details of that order weren’t released, but The Associated Press reported that a UC Irvine philosophy professor obtained a restraining order against Harris last year after Harris sent emails threatening to “put bullets in her skull.”

Herold said Harris’ connection to Boulder was still under investigation.

Back at UCLA, philosophy students received an email Monday stating that Harris had made “specific threats” to people in the department and posted a video on social media titled “UCLA Philosophy Mass Shooting,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

“In light of this, we will continue to have discussion through Zoom until the authorities say that it is safe. I will keep you updated on this situation. But I would avoid being anywhere near Dodd Hall or the philosophy department until further notice,” the Monday email stated.

Late Monday, UCLA announced that university police were “aware of a concerning email and posting sent to some members of the UCLA community today (Monday) and actively engaged with out-of-state law enforcement and federal agencies.”

Following Harris’ arrest in Colorado, UCLA announced that in-person classes will resume Wednesday.

In his online video, Harris makes references to race and uses several profanities, according to The Times. He included links to his manifesto and videos, including the video threatening a mass shooting.

“da war is comin,” he wrote. “forward dis (expletive) to our tha goldhead caucasoid princess.”

Some students appeared stunned by the news of the video and manifesto.

“It’s definitely hitting hard,” Kahlila Williams, a senior, told NBC4.

In an online student message board, a student described Harris’ class as their least favorite at UCLA and said many students had complained to the department about his behavior, The Times reported. The student said Harris changed someone’s grade 43 times after the end of the academic quarter and had changed their grade three times.

The university on Tuesday made counseling services available to students and staff, noting that the threats “were frightening for many of us and caused our community to feel vulnerable at an already challenging time.” Students in need of the services were asked to call 310-825-0768, and faculty/staff can call 310-794-0245.

According to the campus newspaper, the Daily Bruin, Harris was put on leave last spring over allegations that he sent pornographic material to a student, but his position as a postdoctoral lecturer was originally set to expire in June 2021.

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