Matthew Harris Tried to Buy Gun After First Police Encounter: Authorities

Matthew Harris tried to purchase a firearm in November, weeks after encountering Colorado police, but authorities believe he was prevented by a California restraining order that blocked him from making the purchase.

Harris, 31, was taken into custody Tuesday in Boulder, Colorado, following a standoff with police at his apartment. Boulder police said Harris sent out a threatening email to the University of California, Los Angeles containing a violent manifesto with references to school shootings and murder.

"It was very violent, and it was very disturbing," Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold was quoted by KDVR-TV discussing the manifesto.

Herold said Boulder police had contact with Harris in October, although no criminal charges were filed, the Associated Press reported. In November, authorities say Harris attempted to buy a handgun from a store in Colorado but was denied because of a California-based protection order that prohibited Harris from buying or owning a firearm.

Earlier, Harris had received a restraining order from a philosophy professor at the University of California, Irvine who was granted the order after Harris sent emails in April 2020 to his own mother threatening to "hunt" the professor and "put bullets in her skull," according to AP. Court documents show that Harris' mother had not seen her son in five years and believed he needed help with his mental health.

KDVR reported that the subject line of Harris' email said, "Plans to murder," with the name of the employee. The subject line further said he would use a semi-automatic rifle to murder the employee for giving him schizophrenia, according to the restraining order.

Harris was placed on leave from his lecturer position in the UCLA philosophy department last year following that restraining order, the AP reported.

The newest threat stemmed from Harris allegedly sending an email to recipients at UCLA on Sunday containing a link to the manifesto, Boulder police said in a statement. The manifesto had thousands of violent references, including "shooting, bombs, schoolyard massacre and Boulder," and phrases such as "burn and attack Boulder outside by the university," according to police.

Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michael More said the email Harris sent to UCLA indicated he was "potentially planning for a mass violence or shooting event at UCLA," AP reported. The email led UCLA to cancel in-person classes on Tuesday.

UCLA police tipped off the Boulder Police Department Monday night after finding out about the email and tracking Harris to Boulder, KCNC-TV reported.

Boulder police arrived at Harris' address, and he sent out additional threats to several individuals stating he knew authorities were outside, which elevated the level of concern for the police, according to law enforcement.

Officers set up a perimeter around Harris' building at 8 a.m. and started evacuating nearby schools and businesses. He was arrested a few hours later, KCNC added.

According to Colorado prosecutors, federal charges were pending against Harris late Tuesday, and he has been transferred into federal custody, AP reported.

Matthew Harris Tried to Purchase Gun
A police operation connected to the arrest of Matthew Harris caused the evacuation of a Boulder, Colorado, elementary school and implementation of shelter-in-place orders for nearby residents on Boulder's University Hill. Above, police vehicles sit in front of University Hill Elementary School across from the campus of the University of Colorado on Tuesday in Boulder, Colorado. David Zalubowski/AP Photo