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Mystery surrounds attack at UCLA chemistry laboratory [Updated]


Detectives investigating the case of a UCLA student who allegedly slashed the throat of a classmate have still not discovered what prompted the violence, law enforcement sources told The Times today.

Investigators said they are continuing to examine the background of the suspect, Damon Thompson, 20, but nothing so far points to a motive for what the sources called an unprovoked attack that stunned the UCLA campus.

The sources said police have found one interaction between Thompson and law enforcement, in which he called police to complain about neighbors who were making too much noise.

The source spoke on the condition that they not be named because the investigation is ongoing.

The victim is recovering at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after emergency surgery. UCLA officials said they were awaiting her permission to release her identity and that campus spirits were buoyed this morning by reports that she is out of the most extreme danger.

[Updated at 2:45 p.m.: The UCLA released the following statement on behalf of the victim's family: "The 20-year-old victim of yesterday's stabbing on the UCLA campus is showing signs of improvement, and her surgeons expect a good result as she continues to heal. Her parents wish to express their thanks to everyone for their concern, and also wish to extend their gratitude to the police and emergency responders and appreciation to the UCLA medical team for the excellent medical care she is receiving at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center."]

“She is doing really well, given the extent of her injuries. She continues to improve,” said one person familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified because of privacy issues.

Both Thompson and the victim were seniors, and some witnesses said they believed they were lab partners.

Thompson is an only child who left his mother’s home in Belize two years ago to attend UCLA and frequently stayed at relatives' tidy brown home in Fontana with a basketball hoop in the driveway.

Those relatives were in disbelief today that the mellow young man who raided their refrigerator could commit such a violent act. Thompson's second cousin, Akilah Williams, 17, said she was shocked when she heard the news and couldn't believe he was responsible.

“He cares about what people think about him too much,” Williams said. “He gets stressed out but that doesn’t mean he’d do something crazy.”

Thompson is accused of slashing the neck of a 20-year-old woman Thursday afternoon in a UCLA chemistry lab. The attack on the sixth floor of Young Hall prompted a swift police mobilization. Thompson, who was arrested inside Young Hall minutes after the attack, was booked on suspicion of attempted murder. Police are searching for a motive.

Relatives described Thompson as mellow though sometimes “snooty” about his possessions. Williams said her only complaint about her cousin was that he occasionally raided the fridge.

“He would eat everything,” she said. “I mean everything.” Thompson had no other family in the United States, so he would spend school breaks, including all of last summer, at the Fontana home of his mother’s cousin.

Relatives said they had never seen their cousin become violent. “He was even nice to my dog, Doc,” said Jabari Williams, 16, another cousin. 

Thompson is expected to be arraigned next week. It's unclear whether he has retained an attorney.

-- Robert Faturechi in Fontana, Andrew Blankstein and Larry Gordon in Los Angeles 

Photo: UCLA students wait to be interviewed by police after an attack on a female student at a campus chemistry lab Thursday. Credit: Spencer Weiner  / Los Angeles Times

More photos from the scene > > > >

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Comments () | Archives (30)

Did he sniff something in the lab or what?

More people loose it everyday now.... it has become an everyday thing. People who you would never imagine to do such things are commiting vicious acts and it could be because of the economy or stress of school...but whatever the motive was, it's never right to kill or harm someone. I don't know but for sure there is a dark side of this guy that his family members didn't know about...we'll have to wait and see.

You know, it pains me when relatives say things like, "...he gets stressed out but that doesn't mean he would do something crazy." He did something crazy. Don't say something that IS NOT TRUE. JUST BECAUSE YOU SAY IT DOESN'T MAKE IT SO. He did something crazy. There were witnesses. He is in jail. HE DID SOMETHING CRAZY. There is no report of him defending himself (so don't even go there...we would've heard about it by now). GIVE SOCIETY A BREAK; TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.

his relatives' "tidy brown home"... what's that supposed to mean?!

Sounds like a coypcat to me. I mean, why should Ray Clark get all the publicity for attacking a student in a chem lab? (this is probably what Thompson was thinking)Hey, he wants his 15 minutes for attacking a promising young female student too!

he had to be black :[[ well I hope the the victim is alrite

His cousin said he was nice to their dog. Even Hitler liked dogs.


So, Kathy...it sounds like you're saying he did something crazy. Is that right?

It was O.J.

It was O.J.

"Relatives described Thompson as mellow though sometimes “snooty” about his possessions."

The girl might have used his beaker without permission, or left a mess, again.

Isn't that what killed the girl back at Yale, a messy workspace?

Lab Rage.

What happened here was absolutely horrible and shocking. I graduated from UCLA so this story hits close to home for me. However, these commenters need to give the family of the perpetrator a break. They were speaking about their disbelief and shock and what he has been accused of doing. Family members often want to give their family the benefit of the doubt.

I wish the victim a speedy recovery and I hope that justice is served in this case. There is nothing the victim could've done to warrant being attacked so the guy needs to be kept off the streets where he can do more harm. We used to be able to feel safe in academic/work settings but between this case and the Yale student being murdered by a co-worker (for lack of a better term) that is becoming increasingly untrue. My job showed a video about workplace violence and at the time I thought it was ridiculous, but now I will take it more seriously and report troubling and aggressive behavior to try and pre-empt tragedies like this from happening.

"He had to be black" The lab technician who killed the Yale student a while back was white, dummy.

They were showing it on TV - every student they had on camera was of Asian-descent - U China L A - that is our society now I guess, and this guy, he is two years out of Belize and get's to attend a school most Southern Californians can't afford to go to now...and family members are always the last one's to know anything about the personailites of son's and daughter's - victim was in the wrong place at the wrong time - that is everywhere now-a-days.

These comments are getting strange. Accusing the relatives of hiding something, when the kid doesn't live there most days - they're exhibiting emotions of disbelief, not "You know, I think cuz is gonna knife someone at school today. Better lay low or else we'll get emails all in capslock". And as for race, the suspect in custody for the murder of Yale's Annie Le is white, killed her by the neck.
"his relatives' "tidy brown home"... what's that supposed to mean?!"

That statement's just random.

Im a UCLA student, and from the stories I've heard, science and engineering at UCLA can be really cut-throat.

People - the family members are likely in shock and disbelief that someone they've trusted could do such a thing. They're speaking from that place and are not in an objective mindset. While they didn't witness the event, they will likely be strongly affected by his behavior, all the media attention, and critical comments like those above. When traumatic events occur, the effects ripple out. The family members of both victim and perpetrator are just outside of center.

See this link for more information about trauma response:


Let's see. He left his mother's home in Belize 2 years ago, he has been living with relatives in Fontana, CA after that, he's very self-conscious, he raids the frig and voraciously eats everything, he complains about neighbors making too much noise, and he's nice to his relative's dog.

left mom's home = homesick, lonely
currently lives in Fontana = it's a desert, what's more to say?
very self-conscious = insecurity
raids frig = indicative of his lack of restraint, control; lives life in extremes
calls police about noisy neighbors = intolerant of people having fun every once in a while, or he's resentful he wasn't invited to the party
nice to relative's dog = he cannot function with people because he is not adept at multidimensional communication; in other words, he often misjudges the indirect and casual communication pitch of others, whereas dogs are simplistic and straightforward when demonstrating affection, friendliness.

Conclusively, he's bitter towards females because he's most likely got very little to no contact with them. He is a loner and dating, sex is essentially non-existent in this guy's world.

Kathy, the venom spewing from your post is disappointing. Maybe he does have a defense, maybe he didn't do it, then again, maybe he is as guilty as you seem to "know" that he is. The fact is, we, the general public, don't know and we have no right to know at this point. That is the purpose of a trial, and trials are not conducted in the media.

I'm going to guess that he had a psychotic break. Age 20 is about the time that schizophrenia often manifests.

could this be a new trend we might see @ SC's? Like what happend last month @ that other universtiy. Scary to think that but we gotta think about every angle now.

To the wannabe shrink:

This is a joke, right? Because just about everything you cited could also be said about the overwhelming majority of students at UCLA or any other college or university. Did you ever try to cram for finals or finish a paper due the next morning while there's a party going on across the hall in your dorm? As for alleged self-consciousness and raiding the refrigerator - puh-leez! These have been the subject of clichéd humor for parents of teenage boys since the era of Wally and the Beaver, if not before.

In the murder at Yale and another locally at UC Irvine, a photograph of the suspect was published. Why not in this case?

Sounds like the UC poohbahs were trying for a two-fer:

Supposedly "international" from Belize, in order to end-run the rules against affirmative action but still get "diversity", and also "international" in order to get higher out-of-state tuition to help out with budget woes supposedly brought on by those selfish tightfisted California taxpayers who do not want to pony up more money for the UC poohbah "vision" for a top-flight institution. But maybe Thompson and his mother's cousin in Fontana outfoxed the poohbahs by finagling the rules to get him in-state tuition. Meanwhile, the victim had to pay the price of working side-by-side with someone supposedly "stressed" when in over his head as a result of the top-down, anti-democratic social engineering by the poohbahs pushing affirmative action disguised as diversity.

And through it all, the LAT and other MSM go much easier on Thompson than on Clark at Yale: no photos of Thompson (versus lots of Clark), but nice words for Thompson from whatever "relatives" they can dredge up: "tidy brown house", "basketball hoop", "disbelief", "nice to the dog" (versus painting Clark as a weirdo control freak). And MSM poohbahs wonder why they are losing credibility and want to blame it on "incivility" and "hate". Instead, they need to look at the forked tongue in the mirror (or, a once-famous revolutionary polemicist once said, the "internal contradictions")?

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