Los Angeles police officers found a handgun and several red gasoline cans in the trunk of UCLA gunman Mainak Sarkar’s car, which was found in Culver City on Friday afternoon.
Authorities said they believe Sarkar drove the gray Nissan from Minnesota to L.A., parked on a residential street, and took a bus to the UCLA campus, where he fatally shot his former professor, William Klug, on Wednesday before committing suicide.
A citizen on a bicycle spotted the car parked on Washington Place near Sawtelle Boulevard – about 6 miles southeast of UCLA – and reported it to police, LAPD Deputy Chief Matt Blake said at a news conference Friday evening. Patrol officers located the car, sitting near a Culver City bus line that runs to UCLA, at about 2 p.m., authorities said.
Sarkar had a Culver City bus transfer ticket in his pants pocket when his body was found, Blake said.
Authorities said Sarkar lived in the Culver City area at some point while attending UCLA and that he was probably familiar with the neighborhood where his car was found.
“We believe, based on his familiarity with the neighborhood, he parked a vehicle here and took a bus,” LAPD Capt. William Hayes said.
Officers pulled at least six red gas cans – some full, some partially empty – out of the vehicle.
Hayes said it appears Sarkar used them to keep his car fueled in an effort to avoid using credit cards when traveling from Minnesota to Los Angeles. It did not look like the cans were used “for anything nefarious,” he said.
Sarkar’s estranged wife, Ashley Hasti, 31, was found dead in her Brooklyn Park, Minn., home early Thursday, authorities said. She died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner.
Investigators say Hasti appeared to have been dead for a couple of days before the discovery of a “kill list” written by Sarkar led them to her home.
Ballistic comparisons of shell casings recovered from UCLA and the scene of the Minnesota homicide appeared to match, police said.
“Preliminary indications are the casings were likely fired from Sarkar’s weapon,” Blake said.
Authorities had not yet had a chance to examine what kind of handgun was found in the trunk. An LAPD bomb squad examined the vehicle and did not find any evidence of explosives, authorities said.
Sarkar probably took a “direct route” from Minnesota to Los Angeles, police said. It remains unclear when he left the state, but license plate-reading cameras recorded his plate on May 31 in Denver, police said.
The car will be taken to an evidence bay, where investigators will examine it for “possible answers as to why Sarkar committed such a heinous act,” Blake said.
Police found a ballistic vest and prescription medications in Sarkar’s St. Paul residence, Hayes said.
There was no evidence, he said, that anyone else was involved in the killings.
“This was simply him,” Hayes said.
“We have not been able to determine any trigger event that would lead to this or the murder of his wife.”
On Friday afternoon, Cristian Martinez, 21, of Culver City, said he had just pulled up to a liquor store when he saw people standing by a car on Washington Place.
“They were looking at the car, keeping their distance,” Martinez said. “I just thought it was their car and didn’t think anything of it.”
After leaving the store, Martinez drove back home, about a block away. Within seconds of parking, he saw police officers responding. He found out later that the car was thought to belong to Sarkar.
Miguel Villela, 36, of Culver City was shocked when he found out about the vehicle, which was parked just a street away from his house.
“Goosebumps,” he said, holding out his arm. “That’s what I’m feeling.”
Villela was returning home after picking up his daughters from school when he saw police about 2:20 p.m. He later learned from a neighbor that it was Sarkar’s vehicle.
“I’m not going to work,” he said. “I’m staying here with my family.”
MORE ON THE UCLA SHOOTING
7:07 p.m.: This article was updated throughout.
5:27 p.m.: This article was updated with new details about the search of the car.
4:27 p.m.: This article was updated with new details and comments from bystanders.
3:34 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Culver City residents.
This article was originally published at 3 p.m.