Bombings Target UC Santa Cruz Biomedical Researchers | August 11, 2008 Issue - Vol. 86 Issue 32 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 86 Issue 32 | p. 11 | News of The Week
Issue Date: August 11, 2008

Bombings Target UC Santa Cruz Biomedical Researchers

Police are focusing investigation on animal-rights extremists
Department: Science & Technology

IN SEPARATE ATTACKS minutes apart in the early morning of Aug. 1, two University of California, Santa Cruz, biomedical science professors were victims of bombings at their homes, the apparent targets of animal-rights activists.

In one incident, a bomb destroyed the car of a professor, whose identity has not been released, at the university's faculty housing. In the other, a bomb destroyed the front of the off-campus house of David Feldheim, an assistant professor in the department of molecular, cell, and developmental biology who studies the roles of certain genes in the visual systems of mice.

According to police, Feldheim, his wife, and their two small children were forced to leave their house out of a second-story window on a ladder.

The attacks have prompted a full-scale investigation involving local and university police departments, the FBI, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives.

Investigators say the incendiary devices were more powerful than a molotov cocktail.

On Aug. 4, Santa Cruz police announced a $30,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators.

"The safety of our teachers and researchers is of highest priority," says university spokesman Guy Lasnier, who called the bombings a "pretty egregious personal attack."

UCSC Chancellor George R. Blumenthal issued a statement deploring the bombings, calling them "criminal acts of antiscience violence."

The bombings came just four days after a patron at Santa Cruz's Caffe Pergolesi discovered leaflets that listed names and addresses of 13 UCSC researchers, threatening them and calling them "animal abusers."

Police said the leaflets contained numerous errors, including wrong addresses. Feldheim was on the list, but the other victim was not.

UCSC chemistry professor Pradip K. Mascharak was also one of those listed, although his research focuses on NO-releasing compounds (see page 38) and does not involve animal testing. Mascharak declined to speak further, citing the ongoing investigation.

"At this point, nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but we're focusing the investigation toward animal-rights extremists," says Steve Clark, a captain at the Santa Cruz Police Department.

On Aug. 4, UCSC faculty organized a community-wide demonstration on campus protesting the incidents.

The university and law enforcement agencies say they're offering protection at the homes and labs of faculty who were on the list.

"We're going to continue to offer that as long as there's a credible threat," Clark says.

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