Campus official says UC Berkeley shooting most likely ‘suicide by police’

Dan Mogulof and police officers stand at the entrance to the Haas School of Business.
Derek Remsburg/Staff
Dan Mogulof and police officers stand at the entrance to the Haas School of Business.

UCPD believes that Christopher Travis, the UC Berkeley student who was shot by a UCPD officer last month, intentionally caused the events that led to his death, according to a campus official.

Richard Lyons, dean of Haas School of Business, said in an email Tuesday that the investigation on the shooting is nearly finished and that “while we will likely never know Chris’s intent, (UCPD’s) leading theory, based on his history of recent and past episodes, seems to be suicide by police officer.”

Travis was shot by a UCPD officer Nov. 15 after allegedly brandishing a gun and died in the hospital the following day.

In the message, Lyons outlined ways the school is looking to improve security and emergency procedures following the incident, with a focus on better communication among and training for members of the school.

“As I have noted, Berkeley-Haas had never experienced an event like this in its 113 year history, and it is unlikely it will again,” Lyons said in the email. “But we must be better prepared for all kinds of emergencies.”


Read the full text of the email:

Dear Members of the Berkeley-Haas Community,

I want to report to you on the key issues that we are reviewing regarding security and emergency preparedness in the wake of the tragic shooting involving Berkeley-Haas undergraduate student Christopher Travis. 

First, I want to thank again those Haas staff members on the scene who acted so effectively and bravely during the incident.   We did not have any innocent bystanders hurt because our people made the right judgments in the moment.  The emotional impact on members of our community has varied, and we want to be sure that everyone is feeling supported.  Many were helped by talking with counselors from the Tang Center, a service that remains available to our community.   Please let us know if you need any additional assistance.

UC Berkeley Police are close to wrapping up their investigation.  They said that while we will likely never know Chris’s intent, their leading theory, based on his history of recent and past episodes, seems to be suicide by police officer – that is, he intentionally put in motion the confrontation with authorities that led to his death.

You should have received an email invitation from Undergraduate Program Office Executive Director Erika Walker about a remembrance service for Chris Travis on Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 4:00 p.m. in the Wells Fargo Room.  The campus and I have separately expressed our condolences to the Travis family.

Here are some of the areas we are reviewing to improve Haas campus security and tighten our emergency procedures:

·         Emergency communications.  We are exploring Haas-specific communications solutions to provide information to our community during an emergency because the existing systems didn’t function as they should have.  We are working with campus colleagues to make sure these systems are improved and communications better coordinated, in addition to developing options for a local Haas system.  We will report back to you with recommendations.

·         Emergency procedures and training.  In reviewing the incident, it’s clear that many people were unsure of what to do, and directives from authorities were sometimes conflicting or unclear.  Some members of our community got no or limited information and felt abandoned as they waited in rooms while others evacuated the building.  We can improve on our responses by upgrading our training for emergencies of all kinds, and make sure our lines of authority are clear within Haas and to campus officials, including the police.  We already have regular fire drills, and many of you have participated in earthquake response training.  We are now reviewing additional training programs for other kinds of emergencies, and looking into developing standard procedures for various scenarios.  For example, some Haas staff members had already taken an active shooter training program offered by the campus police.  We will make this program available again in 2012.

·         Haas campus security. This security breakdown was caused by one of our own students, who had a right to be in the building.  While our business school campus is necessarily an open one, especially to those of us who study and work here, it can also make some of us feel less secure at times.  We are looking to find the right balance of openness and safety by discussing options for enhanced security in the building.  We are also looking into better monitoring and reporting of occasional crimes against Haas students in Berkeley and surrounding communities.  We are talking with officials at other urban universities for ideas on the best ways to do this.

·         Identifying students of concern.   Identifying and helping students with problems is already a routine part of campus operations. UC Berkeley has a Students of Concern Committee that receives referrals pertaining to students of concern, collects additional information, and identifies and enacts appropriate strategies for addressing the situation.   In addition, the Tang Center also offers advice and information on dealing with students of concern.  We have informed faculty and staff of these resources. 

·         Tang Center.   We are in discussion with the Tang Center to see if a counselor could have some hours at Haas each week. 

·         Haas School Safety Council.  We will appoint a Haas Safety Council of staff, students and faculty whose goal will be to review a wide range of safety issues and act as a sounding board for our community.

As I have noted, Berkeley-Haas had never experienced an event like this in its 113 year history, and it is unlikely it will again.  But we must be better prepared for all kinds of emergencies.  I will be reporting on our progress on these plans in the coming months. Meantime, please send me any ideas or concerns on these issues. 

Have a safe and happy holiday break, and all the best in 2012.


Soumya Karlamangla is the city news editor.

Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comment policy
  • Still shouldn’t of shot him dead. Cops should not be able to kill someone. Just because you have 6 months in the academy does not automatically give you the right to take another person’s life.

  • Hopefully, if there was a conspiracy to kill this student and cover it up, those close to him who don’t buy the suicide theory will speak up to the authorities,

  • Guest

    Perhaps Furd’s Happiness 101 class is not such a mickey mouse concept after all.

  • A concerned peer

    Release the tape!!!! I can understand the officer’s actions if Chris was not responding to his/her orders (reasonable people would not bring a firearm on campus); but the hush from everyone with accounts of the ‘incident’ leaves me (maybe other community members) wishing for more. No one goes to such outlandish measures to die without serious signals.

  • Daniel

    It took them three weeks to figure it out? They knew about his history of suicides from day of the shooting. This shows the stigma surrounding suicide. If it was a homicide, police and media would not hesitate calling it so.

    Also, shame on Richard Lyons for dismissing the incident, saying “it is unlikely it will again”, and not taking any steps to prevent student mental health, considering that depression at Cal is an epidemic. Nationally, about 10% of students had depression within the last year and 1.3% attempted suicide. Also, 6.2% of college students have seriously thought about killing themselves in the 2010 school year. Out of 25,530 undergraduates at Cal, that’s 1,582 students who seriously considered suicide. Mr. Lyons’ tone of ignoring a student’s suicide is sickening. He obviously does not care about the well-being of Haas students.

  • UCs Fascist Friend

    Attorney Brett Sokolow’s advice to universities: violate federal law!
    “We’re not sure what the best approach may be, and it may be that the best thing to protect the community and its members may be to violate federal law,” Sokolow said
    Confirmed: UC-Berkeley is a client of Sokolow’s NCherm.
    (scroll down, Cal is #677 on the list)

    Sokolow gives colleges PR tips, b/c he knows people resent “Big  Brother”:
    “If the sense is that the [behavioral assessment] team is intended as a Big Brother, tracking people and incidents so that we can kick students out, we will inhibit the culture of reporting… Our message from the outset needs to counter any tendency toward that perception… Our purpose is to be caring and preventive. Buy‐in is easy on that concept. Your marketing task is to convince the members of your community of the benevolence of your purpose.

    • Hey Bro

      You’re an idiot.

  • CalParent

    I still have not heard anything from the several eye witnesses or anything from people that viewed the video that was reportedly captured by computer lab camera.  Does anybody have a link to that information? Seems there should be evidence available to the public by now that documents what happened.  All I have seen are press release statements.

    • Guest

      Why do you think and eye witness want to talk publicly?  Surely you don’t believe they’re required to.  Why should the tape be available to the public?  So you can get your jollies watching what amounts to a snuff video?  You’re really sick.  As a Cal student, I’m really glad you’re not my CalParent. 

      • As a Cal student I want to know if the police shoot first, ask questions later. You make a lot of absurd assumptions about someone who just wants the truth. Doesn’t that sound just a bit immoral to you? Knowing he had no intention of hurting anyone else all the more makes me want that video to be released. What if police had the only video of UC police jabbing students in the gut with batons, or pepper spraying students at Davis, would you assume people asking for its release just want to “get their jollies” is your view of mankind that low? Maybe being a student isn’t for you if you hate the world and don’t mind corruption. 

  • UC Feigns Concern

    The “investigation” produces a conclusion that is speculative conventional wisdom, and conveniently dispenses with the possibility that Mr. Travis may have had much more planned than suicide by cop.

    “berkeleycares”?  Excuse me while I go puke.
    UC throws money down the toilet by listening to fascist hacks like Brett Sokolow and his “NCherm” program.

    One must be naive (or stupid) to use the Tang mental health services. The privacy policy is a waiver releasing the UC from all future liability stemming from use of student records – i.e. use for any and every reason whether permitted by law or not.
    If you want to see a “mental healthcare” provider, find a third party. Find someone who is not on UC payroll, where the UC doesn’t have the keys to their offices, and doesn’t operate their network. You cannot trust the UC at all.

  • Thedude

    To the asshat who kept saying suicide by cop was not what happened in the last story:


    • Thedud

      You’ll believe anything the boys in blue have to say.
      I pity you.


      • Anonymous

        So then what do you think happened, dud?

        • Alf

          No kidding, common sense prevails and the ignorant remain hoodwinked.

      • TheDude

        Not taking anyone’s word for it, just observing the obvious.

        • Stan De San Diego

          If it’s so “obvious”, care to tell us?

          • TheDude

            You don’t get out much, do you? The “obvious” being suicide-by-cop.  Happens hundreds of times a year in this country, it’s not a rare phenomenon.

          • Daniel

            It’s true: there are more than twice as many suicides (36,547 in 2009) as there are homicides (16,591) in this country, we just don’t hear about them because of the stigma. Also, there are more suicides as automobile fatalities (36,284). The actual number for suicides is 3 to 5 times higher, due to underreporting of suicide as the cause of death. So there may be 10 times as many suicides as there are homicides. I don’t know how many of those are suicide-by-police, but guessing it’s more common than we think.

          • juice tice

            Only because we force ourselves to document, explain, and close everything. Suicides are easy to close, REAL suicides leave notes.
            Accidents happen in our society, but the rest of the world is favoring brains over brawn (nepotism is going to be put to the test).

          • Daniel

            Only one in six (real) suicides leave  suicide notes… Didn’t understand the rest.

          • calmmunity

            Dear Daniel, your wiki number is from Japan (stark contrast of social demographics). The rest referred to society demanding cop’s document events. Hence, many fatalities are easily classified as suicides.

    • student

      If Travis was really a threat then I expect we would have seen the video footage and would be marching in parades for the heroes that saved us.