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Former UCLA Instructor Matthew Harris Arrested In Boulder After Extensive Police Operation

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) - Police in Boulder say they arrested a man on Tuesday morning who is suspected of making threats against UCLA. Matthew Harris is a former instructor in the school's philosophy department, according to UCLA's school newspaper the Daily Bruin.

Matthew Harris
(credit: Benjamin Alexander-Buie)

The threats he is alleged to have made temporarily forced the university to revert all its classes Tuesday to remote learning.

Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said they were notified by California authorities on Monday night that they had tracked Harris to Boulder.

Boulder police officers actually responded to Harris' residence in the 900 block of Broadway on Monday night. After police responded to the address, they claim Harris sent out additional threats to numerous individuals, which elevated the level of concern. Police "maintained surveillance on the address throughout the night to ensure that he was unable to leave the location before daylight."

Matthew Harris Arrest
(credit: Benjamin Alexander-Buie)

The Boulder regional SWAT was activated just before 8 a.m. and immediately set up a perimeter around Harris' location. Officers began evacuating nearby University Hill Elementary School, residents and businesses. Police also coordinated with CU Boulder to evacuate some students.

In Boulder, a shelter-in-place order was put in effect in a small area of Boulder near University Hill about 8 a.m. Tuesday due to that police operation.

univ hills
(credit: CBS)

The students from the elementary school were taken in school buses to the Boulder Valley Education Center where parents were instructed to pick up the children.

Sometime later, police announced that they were evacuating "buildings immediately adjacent to 955 Broadway/Uni Hill Elementary area." That included fraternity and sorority buildings.

Harris was arrested just after 11 a.m. and a shelter-in-place order was remaining in effect while investigators searched the apartment Harris had been living in. According to CU Boulder, records indicate no student or employee relationship with Harris. The complex is a private apartment building, not university student housing.

Boulder Police Deputy Chief Stephen Redfearn said, "Brief conversations, I don't have the full context, but it was not adversarial and the end result was he surrendered peacefully which is what we wanted."

Harris allegedly posted a YouTube video referencing a mass shooting and sent an 800-page manifesto making specific threats to people within UCLA's philosophy department. The video has since been taken down.

After reviewing parts of the lengthy manifesto, Boulder police investigators said they identified thousands of references to violence, stating things such as "killing, death, murder, shooting, bombs, schoolyard massacre and Boulder" and phrases like "burn and attack Boulder outside by the university."

The investigation has revealed that Harris had attempted to buy an unknown handgun at a gun store in Jefferson County on Nov. 2, 2021. His purchase was denied. Herold explained Harris was on a national list of those not allowed to purchase firearms.

"The importance of having collaboration at the federal, state and local levels was critical to the swift resolution of this incident this morning," Herold said in a statement. "The incident today is yet another reminder of the ongoing need for strong relationships with our federal law enforcement partners to protect the Boulder community."

Matthew Harris Boulder Suspect Arrest Video_frame_350
(credit: Benjamin Alexander-Buie)

Harris remained in custody on state charges however was transferred to federal custody on Tuesday night. Since the alleged threats were made across state lines and victims are located in California, Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty has been in close communication with the United States Attorney's Office and the FBI.

"The inter-agency cooperation and strong working relationships are critical to ensuring that the best outcome is reached in any serious case," he said in a statement. "We anticipate that further announcements about the charges will be coming soon."

Dougherty also stated, "I recognize that this was a scary day for the people of Boulder."

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