Reporting Anjali Hemphill
DAVIS (CBS13) – Police are now investigating criminal charges after a UC Davis researcher was injured early Thursday morning in a small explosion at an apartment on campus, forcing the evacuation of the complex.
The explosion was reported by hospital staff at Sutter Davis at 1:30 a.m. after the researcher sought treatment for an injured hand.
Campus police found chemicals inside an apartment at 418 Russell Park that may have been used to create the explosion. The housing complex was evacuated, and nearby buildings had restricted access throughout the day. The evacuation involved 40 units and 74 residents, according to Police Chief Matt Carmichael.
“This is now a criminal investigation based on the amount of items found inside the apartment,” Carmichael said.
UC Davis police held a press conference on Friday and said the explosion is now a criminal investigation. The police chief said during the investigation into the residence where the explosion occurred, they found some “unsafe chemicals” that could not be transported a long way. Several area bomb teams showed up and detonated those chemicals somewhere off Orchard Road.
A neighbor who pointed out a strange makeshift vent coming from the apartment told CBS13 on Friday that it could have been leaking those “unsafe chemicals” into the air and residents could have been breathing it in.
Neighbors who live in the complex say it’s been happening for at least a year. That’s how long the makeshift vent has been there.
“I think, ‘Oh my god, I’ve been living with a bomb for such a long time,’” a neighbor said. “It really scared me.”
After hours of investigating, bomb teams transported the chemicals to an open field about half a mile away and detonated them.
“That ended up being a total of eight explosions,” Carmichael said.
Carmichael said numerous agencies assisted in the initial investigation, including the FBI; the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives bomb squad; the Yolo County Narcotics Enforcement Team; and bomb squads from Yolo, Sacramento, Placerville and El Dorado counties.
Neighbors are worried they may have been exposed to dangerous fumes because of the vent coming out of the apartment’s window.
“If he was ventilating that out of the apartment into the ambient atmosphere, that means that myself and other residents were probably breathing in this, which could be a potential health risk,” resident Sean Barbarie said.
Police are still investigating what these chemicals were and what they could be used for. No one is in custody at this point. The researcher’s name has not been released.
“I can’t comment at this point what was located, the suspect’s identity nor that individual’s current location,” Carmichael said. “At this point it is important for us to maintain the integrity of the investigation.”
That leaves plenty of questions from concerned neighbors.
“That’s definitely something we need to know about,” Sean said. “What chemicals he had, what he was doing in there.”