UCLA Chemistry Stabbing

Apologies for breaking into Noel’s n-doped semiconductor post.

Breaking news out of UCLA. A male student allegedly stabbed a female approximately 3 times in an organic chemistry lab class. At least one time critically in the neck. This took place on the 6th floor in the chemistry department’s Young Hall. The suspect voluntarily turned himself in to police. Authorities have identified the suspect as Damon D. Thompson.[LATimes]

The organic lab this took place in was Chem 30CL; which is Dr. Alfred D. Bacher’s class on modern techniques in synthetic organic chemistry. The off-series nature of the class and the advanced topic would lead to a heavily populated class of advanced undergraduates, which correlates with earlier reports that they were seniors.

Detective Mike Pelletier said they were not romantically involved.[AP] Indications are they were lab partners or have worked in groups in the past. Damon Thompson is being held on 1,000,000.00 dollar bail.[ChemistryBlog]

Update 1: The following is from ABC News reporter Miriam Hernandez. Link: UCLA student stabbed in neck at lab

UCLA police responded to a call of stabbing in a lab room in Young Hall at about 12:20 p.m. The victim suffered multiple stab wounds, including one to the neck, and was transported to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

LAPD investigators and campus police officers were interviewing scores of students, people who may have witnessed the incident.

Two hours after the stabbing, campus police and LAPD investigators were in and out of the chemistry building, located off Hilgard Ave. on the southeastern side of the campus. The stabbing happened on the sixth floor of William G. Young Hall in a chemistry laboratory.

There was no sign of panic on campus Thursday.

Investigators and officers reportedly had no difficulty finding the suspect. Authorities have released few details about the investigation.

The names and ages of the suspect and the victim were not released.

“At about 12:20, the police department got a call of a stabbing victim in one of our facilities,” said UCLA Police Assistant Chief Jeff Young. “Our officers from the UCLA Police Department responded within minutes. We were able to apprehend the suspect nearby.”

Police have not said how many students were present when the male student attacked the female student.

The victim was transported to the hospital with slash wounds to her throat. Her condition was not released.

Students were alerted by text message that there was a police emergency at the campus building, and that a suspect was in custody.

Campus police called in LAPD investigators to assist. They say it is an extensive crime scene, because of all the people they must interview.

“The size also deals with the number of witnesses involved, and things like that,” said Young. “So it’s not so much the physical location, as it is just the number of people that had to be interviewed … well over 30 people, I believe, that had some information that we had to obtain.”

“At this time, we don’t have a motive,” said LAPD Detective Marti Moran. “And again, that’s something that the detectives are going to be looking into during their investigation.”

Young did say he wanted to assure parents and UCLA students that the campus is safe, and what happened Thursday was a very unusual incident.



Update 2: The following is from Student allegedly stabs fellow student in UCLA lab by Mercury News

A female UCLA student was hospitalized Thursday after a fellow student slashed her throat in a chemistry lab on campus, authorities said.

A man was arrested after UCLA police got a call about the stabbing Thursday afternoon in Young Hall.
UCLA spokesman Phil Hampton said the victim and suspect were among a group of students working in the undergraduate teaching lab at the time. They are both 20-year-old seniors.

Officers were interviewing 30 to 40 witnesses who were in or near the lab and might have seen the attack, Campus Police Assistant Chief Jeff Young said. No names have been released, and the motive is under investigation.

The woman was being treated for multiple stab wounds at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Her condition was not immediately known.

Students told the Los Angeles Times they saw a woman stagger out of the lab moments after the attack while a teacher’s assistant applied pressure to her bloody neck.

Chemistry professor Robin Garrell, who saw the victim on a wheeled stretcher pushed by paramedics as she left her office in the building, told the Los Angeles Times that students and faculty were “obviously very shaken” by the incident.

Police closed off the building to investigate.



Update 3: The following is from No motive found in slashing of UCLA student’s throat by Andrew Blankstein, Anthony Pesce, Larry Gordon and Spencer Weiner

Students in a UCLA chemistry lab watched helplessly this afternoon as a classmate with seemingly no provocation slashed the neck of a fellow student, causing serious injuries.

The attack occurred just after noon on the sixth floor of Young Hall, prompting swift police mobilization and leaving students shaken by the violence as word spread across campus.

One witness inside the lab told The Times that the alleged assailant, a 20-year-old male student in the class, walked up to the 20-year-old female victim and appeared to repeatedly punch her.

He said he realized it was more serious when she slumped over, bleeding profusely from her neck.

Another student, Woojin Lee, was waiting with a friend near the chemistry lab when he heard screams and crying.

“I thought somebody blew themselves up with chemicals,” Lee said. “Some of the students in that room were covered with blood on their coats and latex gloves. I saw her neck, the [teacher’s assistant] was trying help her.”

“It was horrifying because she was a fellow student and a partner,” Lee added. “Something happens at a prestigious university like UCLA, it seems unbelievable.”

The suspect was arrested several minutes later inside Young Hall. Neither his name nor that of the victim has been released.

The victim was rushed to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, which is on campus, in critical condition. She underwent surgery and her condition was improving, officials said.

Los Angeles Police Department detectives said they don’t know the motive for the attack.

A law enforcement source said there might have been a verbal altercation before the attack, but details were not clear. Both were seniors, and some campus sources said they may have been lab partners.

UCLA officials sent a text alert to students, faculty and staff members soon after the attack, telling them that at an incident had occurred at Young Hall and to stay away from the area.

The attack took place between class sessions in an organic chemistry lab. The undergraduate level lab, known as 30CL, enrolls about a dozen students and is usually led by teaching assistants.

It is part of a class for about 60 students that is overseen by lecturer Alfred Bacher, according to department officials.

Cyril Baida, a biochemistry graduate student who is a teaching assistant in a lab next door, said he helped escort the victim into his room and sat her down while another teaching assistant kept applying pressure through gauze on her neck to stop heavy bleeding.

The victim was breathing but very pale and at times appeared to be passing out, said Baida, who praised police and UCLA medics for quick and effective response to 911 calls.

“We kept trying to talk to her and tell her she was going to be OK,” he said. “We wanted her to stay conscious.”

Baida said he did not know the victim or the alleged assailant, but was told that they were lab partners and had worked on some of the same organic chemistry projects.

UCLA campus spokesperson Carol Stogsdill said she had no information on past behavioral problems involving the alleged assailant and that she had heard of no reports of any previous trouble in the class or between the two students.

Chemistry department vice chairman Peter Felker said the department had not received any reports of trouble in the lab or complaints about the alleged assailant’s past behavior.

“Nothing that I’m aware of,” he said.


Update 4: Small excerpt of LA Times Blog’s UCLA professor reported concerns about stabbing suspect last year

To Stephen Frank, the e-mails he received from Thompson indicated the student was in need of serious help. Frank said he urged university officials to take action. An official told Frank that they could only suggest to Thompson that he seek treatment, but they could not require him to seek psychological services.

“My concern was in the context of other violent incidents on campuses around the country,” Frank said, explaining why he discussed the issue early on with university officials and why he chose to speak publicly about it Saturday.



Mitch

6 Comments

  1. Does anyone know if this was a relationship gone bad or what?

    Here’s the booking info.

    http://app4.lasd.org/iic/ajis_search.cfm

    Offender Record

    Offender ID: 2088232
    Offender Name: DAMON D THOMPSON
    Date of Birth: 05/09/1989
    Age: 20
    Custody Status: In Custody
    Location of Offender: LAPD Pacific Division
    Race: Black
    Gender: Male

    Charge Level: F (Felony)

    ARREST
    Arrest Date: 10/08/2009 Arrest Time: 1415 Arrest Agency: 4208 Agency Description: LAPD-WLA DIVISION

    Date Booked: 10/08/2009 Time Booked: 2113 Booking Location: 4214 Location Description: LAPD – PACIFIC

  2. not to make light of a bad situation, but dick zare lit george whitesides of fire when they were lab partners as undergrads. presumably it was an accident.

    i hope this current student makes a complete recovery.

  3. I appreciate you’re probably looking for google-fu or similar, but why have you linked to the course page and to the person in charge of the course – are they really relevant?

  4. This actually opens the discussion about the safety of working on a lab all by yourself from a totally different perspective.

  5. Yeah everyone I know that it is terrible that this incident had occurred in this way, but as some one said it was an accident. In one way it was an accident, in the sense that no one could have predicted it, so there was no way anyone could have really intervened as to put a stop to it. What I can say is that it could have been anyone in there, and it could have been anyone that could flip out like that. I am sorry it had to happen this way and that people would amplify it with racial slurs and biased follow ups. The thing is that the young lady was innocent and undeserving of it, no matter what the circumstances were, but we must consider that the perpetrator Damon was somewhat “mentally unstable”, as concluded by some of the authorities at UCLA. We do not know why it transpired this way, but we can be glad that he gave himself in willingly and that justice is being served, and the victim has recovered quickly and is doing well.

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