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SC incendiary devices deployed at UC faculty
Conan Knoll/Sentinel Staff writer
Article Launched: 08/02/2008 04:29:01 PM PDT
SANTA CRUZ - Firebombs were intentionally set on a porch and in a car belonging to two UC Santa Cruz researchers in separate incidents early this morning in what police have classified as acts of domestic terrorism.
Police are calling at least one of the incidents attempted homicide.
In one incident, a faculty member's home on Village Circle off High Street was intentionally firebombed at about 5:43 a.m., according to police. The address of the residence was one of those listed in threatening animal rights pamphlets found Tuesday in a downtown coffee shop. In the second incident at about the same time, a car parked in a faculty member's driveway on Dickens Way on campus was firebombed, police said.
The family on Village Circle was home at the time of the firebombing and the victims, including two young children, escaped on a fire ladder from a second-tory window, according to police. Injuries were sustained by family members during the escape but police did not release details.
Santa Cruz Police investigators, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and UCSC Police are conducting a joint investigation, collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses. The case has been turned over to the FBI.
"It's unconscionable that any reasonable person would consider this an acceptable tactic to get their point across," said Santa Cruz Police Chief Howard Skerry in a statement. "We are working hard with the other agencies and committing
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all available resources to follow all possible leads. We urge anyone with information to come forward."
Paula Goldman, who lives next door to the house on Village Circle, said she woke up when she heard a fire alarm going off, looked out the window and saw the front door of the townhouse on fire. She grabbed a hose and doused the flames, Goldman said.
"With what happened previously and what happened last week with the pamphlets we just assumed," that it was related to animal research, her husband Joel Goldman said. "We know it was premeditated. It was pretty obvious."
This appears to be the latest in a string of incidents targeting UCSC researchers.
Flyers identifying 13 UCSC scientists, some of whom use mice, fruit flies and nonprimate organisms in their research, were discovered at a downtown coffee shop Tuesday. The flyers say, "Animal abusers everywhere beware; we know where you live; we know where you work; we will never back down until you end your abuse." The names, home addresses, home phone numbers and photos of researchers also were published on the flyers.
In February, masked demonstrators rattled the front door of a UCSC researcher, whose husband chased the intruders away while the researcher protected her children in the back of the Westside home.
Hours after the attempted home invasion, authorities raided a Riverside Avenue house where several students live. No arrests have been made, and police say the hard drive of a laptop confiscated at the house had been cleaned several times, increasing suspicion among investigators.
Police are investigating the flyers as criminal activity.
"These unconscionable acts put the researchers, their families - including their children - and their neighbors in grave danger," UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal said in the statement Saturday. "These are odious assaults on individuals and on the principles of free inquiry by which we live."
The campus is taking the incident "extremely seriously" and is working with law enforcement agencies to identify perpetrators and taking steps to support researchers, Blumenthal said in the statement.
"The personal safety and security of all our students, faculty and staff is our highest priority," Blumenthal said in the statement.
All the involved agencies are taking additional steps to protect the safety of the other people listed in the animal rights pamphlets, according to police.
Santa Cruz Police investigators ask anyone with information about the incident to call 420-5820. To leave anonymous information regarding the incidents call the tip line at 420-5995.
Sentinel Correspondent Corrine Speckert contributed to this report. Contact Conan Knoll at 706-3252 or cknoll [at] santacruzsentinel.com.