UCPD continues investigation, UCLA confirms former researcher is in custody
This post was updated Feb. 3 at 12:50 a.m.
The UCPD and UCLA Behavioral Intervention Team are investigating a former philosophy postdoctoral researcher following his recent threats against students and faculty in the UCLA Department of Philosophy, including mention of a mass shooting.
According to philosophy department emails, Matthew Harris, who was also a former lecturer in the department, sent several communications to some philosophy faculty and students, including a link to his YouTube video titled “UCLA Philosophy (Mass Shooting)” and an 800-page manifesto outlining threats. The email did not specify whether Harris sent any threats of a mass shooting.
As of 11:48 a.m. on Tuesday, Harris is in Colorado police custody, according to a campuswide announcement from UCLA.
Bill Kisliuk, UCLA spokesperson, said in an emailed statement at 6:47 a.m. that out-of-state law enforcement agencies confirmed Harris is not in California and is being observed. He added instruction will remain remote Feb. 1.
According to an email from philosophy professor Katrina Elliott, Sherrilyn Roush, UCLA philosophy department chair, advised faculty to avoid holding in-person instruction until Harris’ location is determined. Several instructors in the department of philosophy sent communications, shifting their classes online indefinitely to ensure students’ safety.
Roush did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Steve Ritea, UCLA spokesperson, said in an emailed statement that UCPD is working with out-of-state law enforcement and federal agencies to investigate the situation.
“UCPD is aware of a concerning email and posting sent to some members of the UCLA community today,” Ritea said. “We will keep the community informed as we learn more.”
According to a screenshot acquired by The Bruin, UCLA Residential Life leadership sent a message to staff through Slack stating that UCPD is requesting non-urgent information be sent to [email protected] and [email protected].
Some classes, including Sociology M176: “Sociology of Mass Communication,” were initially planned to be held in person in Dodd Hall, where the philosophy department is housed. According to a class announcement, when asked about what professors should do regarding holding in-person instruction at Dodd Hall, UCPD did not immediately recommend that any changes be made to the method of instruction. However, UCLA later announced around midnight Tuesday through BruinALERT that all instruction would be held remotely Feb. 1.
Harris was a lecturer for multiple UCLA courses during his tenure, including Philosophy 168: “Philosophy of Race.”
Harris was previously placed on leave in the spring while UCLA investigated allegations that he sent a video containing pornographic content to a student. His postdoctoral status was designated to expire at the end of June 2021, though this expiration was unrelated to UCLA’s investigations.
Harris did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
Contributing reports by Justin Jung, city and crime editor.