Feds charge, detain ex-UCLA lecturer for interstate threats in manifesto
Federal prosecutors in Denver have charged a former UCLA lecturer with transmitting threats across state lines — prompting a one-day halt to in-person instruction on the Westwood campus — and a judge Thursday ordered him held without bail.
Matthew Christopher Harris, 31, a former postdoctoral fellow, allegedly posted video online and sent an 800-page manifesto — making “specific threats” to people in UCLA’s philosophy department via email earlier this week, resulting in the school’s decision to cancel in-person classes on Tuesday.
He was taken into custody Tuesday in Boulder, Colorado, and charged with making threats. He had lectured in UCLA’s philosophy department until being put on “investigatory leave” last year.
Harris appeared Thursday in Denver federal court, where he was advised of his rights and questioned by a magistrate judge who ordered him held without bail pending a detention hearing Tuesday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Harris was tracked down Tuesday morning at an apartment building in Boulder, 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 that her agency was contacted by UCLA police Monday night about the alleged threats. 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.”
It was unclear if Harris was in possession of any weapons.
Authorities 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 a UC Irvine philosophy professor reportedly obtained a restraining order against Harris last year after Harris sent emails threatening to “put bullets in her skull.”
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.”
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, in-person classes resumed Wednesday.
In his online video, Harris makes references to race and included links to his manifesto and videos, including the video threatening a mass shooting.
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.”
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. His position as a postdoctoral lecturer was originally set to expire in June 2021.