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Former UC Davis Chemist Ordered To Pay Restitution For 2013 Apartment Explosion

Crime: David Snyder was sentenced last year on explosives, firearms, and hazardous waste charges

by Jyllian Kemsley
April 22, 2015

Credit: Jyllian Kemsley/C&EN
A playground occupies the center of a group of apartments at the complex where Snyder lived.
A photo of a playground.
Credit: Jyllian Kemsley/C&EN
A playground occupies the center of a group of apartments at the complex where Snyder lived.

Former University of California, Davis, chemist David S. Snyder must pay nearly $100,000 in restitution to the university and a property management company as a result of a 2013 incident in his campus apartment.

The restitution deal concludes legal proceedings against Snyder that involved 17 felony charges, including possession of explosives and firearms and reckless disposal of hazardous waste. He pleaded no contest to the charges last year and was sentenced to two years and two months in county jail plus two years and two months out of jail under supervision by the county probation department.

Snyder received both of his chemistry degrees, a bachelor’s in 2004 and a Ph.D. in 2011, from UC Davis. He was working on a temporary research appointment at the time of the incident, UC Davis said in a 2013 press release. Snyder worked for UC Davis chemistry professor Mark J. Kurth on medicinal chemistry research.

Snyder injured his left hand in the Jan. 17, 2013, incident. Details of his injury were not revealed during court proceedings.

The chemist was doing a small-scale experiment in his apartment to work out a more efficient way to remove nitrate from water, says his attorney, Linda Parisi.

However, when police and other emergency responders searched Snyder’s apartment, they found a vial containing the explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP), according to testimony at Snyder’s preliminary hearing. They found a second vial containing TATP in a dumpster.

Authorities also found ingredients for other explosives and several firearms, which are illegal to possess on university or college grounds in California. Some of the chemicals appeared to come from the UC Davis chemistry department, testified UC Davis police detective Joanne Zekany and sergeant Paul Henoch.

No testimony indicated that Snyder planned to use the explosives to harm others.

TATP is very unstable. For safety reasons, the county bomb squad destroyed it shortly after it was discovered by detonating the vials in a nearby student farm field. The restitution payments will reimburse UC Davis $18,162 for soil testing to ensure the fields were not contaminated by the detonation, says Jonathan Raven, chief deputy district attorney for Yolo County. The remainder, $81,597, will reimburse the apartment manager, Tandem Properties, for expenses such as housing residents displaced during the investigation, cleaning up the apartment, and lost rent.



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