© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People walk on the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) campus before the start of semester, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., September 28, 2020. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) – A former University of California at Los Angeles instructor accused of posting online threats of violence against the campus, disrupting a day of classes, was arrested in Colorado on Tuesday after a standoff with police, officials said.
Matthew Christopher Harris, 31, drew authorities’ attention on Monday night after an 800-page manifesto with references to mass shootings and bombings was allegedly emailed by Harris to students and faculty of the UCLA philosophy department where he once taught, police said.
As a precaution, university officials canceled in-person classes for all 31,000 students on the Los Angeles campus on Tuesday, UCLA officials said in a statement, while law enforcement officials mounted an interstate hunt for Harris.
UCLA campus police traced the former instructor to an apartment building in Boulder, Colorado, across the street from the University of Colorado’s flagship campus, and alerted authorities there, Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold told a news conference.
As Harris became aware early Tuesday that police had surrounded the apartment house, he sent out “additional threats to numerous individuals,” which “elevated the level of concern,” police said in a statement.
In response, Boulder police evacuated a nearby elementary school and sent out reverse-911 telephone calls advising members of the public in the vicinity to remain indoors.
Herold said law enforcement negotiators made telephone contact with Harris, who ultimately surrendered without incident about four hours after the siege began.
The heavy police presence rattled residents of the Boulder neighborhood, just two miles from a grocery store where a lone gunman killed 10 people in a shooting last year.
Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty said Harris was detained on state charges, but as the alleged threats involved multiple states, he could face federal charges as well.
Harris attempted to buy a handgun in Colorado last fall but the purchase was denied because a background check revealed a protective order had been filed against him in California, Dougherty said.
Herold said the written manifesto contained thousands of “very disturbing” references to violence, including allusions to “bombs” and a “schoolyard massacre.” Harris was also suspected of posting threatening videos online, police said.
Los Angeles television station KABC reported the footage in question involved hundreds of clips, including video of the 2017 mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival and the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.
Police did not immediately disclose what specific grievances Harris may have raised in the threats he was accused of making.
UCLA officials said in-person classes would resume as normal on Wednesday now that Harris was in custody.
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