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Central Valley | Education & Student Activism | Police State and Prisons

Davis researcher arrested for making explosive chemicals
by Davis Enterprise
Monday Jan 21st, 2013 7:55 AM
A UC Davis junior researcher who earned two chemistry degrees from the university was arrested Saturday evening on felony charges of possessing explosives materials and firearms inside his Russell Park apartment.
David Scott Snyder, 32, was booked at the Yolo County Jail at 2:30 p.m. Sunday after being medically cleared from an undisclosed hospital. He is being held in lieu of $2 million bail and is scheduled to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in Yolo Superior Court.

Snyder was notified of his arrest at 5 p.m. Saturday, two days after his arrival at a local hospital with hand injuries from an explosion resulted in the evacuations of 40 apartments and a 20-hour chemical removal operation involving dozens of bomb technicians.

“There’s currently no information to suggest that Mr. Snyder was plotting any type of event here on campus or in the community … but we all can agree that the risk (to the) safety of the community was great,” UCD Police Chief Matt Carmichael said at a news conference called Saturday night to announce the arrest.

The police chief said the items seized from the apartment included a live explosive and “chemicals and substances consistent with the making of explosives,” but declined to go into specifics. None of the firearms were assault-type weapons, he added.

Where the materials came from remains under investigation, and authorities could not say whether Snyder obtained them through his work on the UCD campus.

“Some of them are not illegal,” said Nick Concolino, commander of the Yolo County Bomb Squad. “It’s when you mix them together that you run into problems.”

Snyder faces felony charges of possession of an explosive, possession of substances and/or materials with intent to make a destructive device, and two counts of possessing a firearm on campus, Carmichael said.

He has been placed on investigatory leave from his two-month junior specialist research position in a chemistry lab at UCD, where Snyder earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2004 and his Ph.D. in the same subject in December 2011.

Carmichael would not say whether Snyder was being cooperative with the investigation, which is ongoing and could result in additional charges.

“This investigation is comprehensive, and we’re looking at everything,” including the potential for more suspects, Carmichael said. Snyder was not previously known to campus law enforcement, he added.

At Russell Park, where the door of Snyder’s ground-floor apartment remains boarded over and bears a notice from the Yolo County Health Department declaring it “unfit for human habitation,” residents expressed shock at news of Snyder’s arrest.

“That’s scary,” said Heena Bal, a UCD senior who lives in the building next door to Snyder’s and who heard the commotion when police arrived at the complex early Thursday morning. “It’s a family community — you wouldn’t think something like that is going on.”

“I’m curious how it happened,” said another neighbor, who declined to give her name out of concern for her family. “I never expected such things would happen, but I feel it’s under control.”

Campus officials have said that Snyder’s arrival at Sutter Davis Hospital early Thursday morning prompted hospital staff to contact police, who upon discovering the alleged contents of the researcher’s apartment evacuated his immediate neighbors and called for assistance from local, state and federal bomb squads.

Four more buildings and a nearby day care center were emptied during the removal process, and displaced residents were given food and housing assistance during the removal operation that lasted until about 1:30 a.m. Friday.

Some of the materials taken from the apartment were deemed too unsafe to transport and had to be destroyed in a nearby field, resulting in eight detonations that had residents both on campus and in the city limits hearing popping and other explosion-type noises late Thursday night.

Meanwhile, Davis Mayor Joe Krovoza said he wants to assemble an ad-hoc review committee to review to look at how the city would respond to a similar situation.

“We had a lot of citizens who did not know what had happened, and they … didn’t know whether there should be an evacuation or not, that kind of thing,” Krovoza said in a voice-mail message from Washington D.C., where he is attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The committee would involve city and UCD officials, city residents including students, as well as police and firefighters for a discussion of “how we communicate with both communities in the event of emergencies so people know if it’s safe to go out, whether or not there should be an evacuation, exactly what’s happened,” Krovoza said.