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No motive found in slashing of UCLA student's throat

October 8, 2009 |  6:32 pm

Students in a UCLA chemistry lab watched helplessly this afternoon as a classmate with seemingly no provocation slashed the neck of a fellow student, causing serious injuries.

The attack occurred just past noon on the sixth floor of Young Hall, prompting swift police mobilization and leaving students shaken by the violence as word spread across campus.

One witness inside the lab told The Times that the alleged assailant, a 20-year-old male student in the class, walked up to the 20-year-old female victim and appeared to repeatedly punch her.

The witness said he realized it was more serious when she slumped over, bleeding profusely from her neck.

Another student, Woojin Lee, was waiting with a friend near the chemistry lab when he heard screams and crying.

“I thought somebody blew themselves up with chemicals,” Lee said. “Some of the students in that room were covered with blood on their coats and latex gloves. I saw her neck, the [teacher’s assistant] was trying to help her.”

“It was horrifying because she was a fellow student and a partner,” Lee added. “Something happens at a prestigious university like UCLA, it seems unbelievable.”

The suspect was arrested inside Young Hall minutes after the incident. His name and that of the victim have not been released.

The victim was rushed to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, which is on campus, in critical condition. She underwent surgery and her condition was improving, officials said.

Los Angeles Police Department detectives said they don’t know the motive for the attack.

A law enforcement source said there might have been a verbal altercation before the slashing, but details were unclear. Both students were seniors, and some campus sources said they may have been lab partners.

UCLA officials sent a text alert to students, faculty and staff members soon after the attack, telling them that an incident had occurred at Young Hall and to stay away from the area.

The attack took place between class sessions in an organic chemistry lab. The undergraduate level lab enrolls about a dozen students and is usually led by teaching assistants.

It is part of a class for about 60 students that is overseen by lecturer Alfred Bacher, according to department officials.

Cyril Baida, a biochemistry graduate student who is a teaching assistant in a lab next door, said he helped escort the victim into his room and sat her down while another teaching assistant kept applying pressure through gauze on her neck to stop the bleeding.

The victim was breathing but very pale and at times appeared to be passing out, said Baida, who praised police and UCLA medics for a quick and effective response to 911 calls.

“We kept trying to talk to her and tell her she was going to be OK,” he said. “We wanted her to stay conscious.”

Baida said he did not know the victim or the suspect, but was told that they were lab partners and had worked on some of the same organic chemistry projects.

UCLA campus spokeswoman Carol Stogsdill said she had no information on past behavioral problems involving the suspect and that she had heard of no reports of any previous trouble in the class or between the two students.

Peter Felker, a chemistry department vice chairman, said the department also had not received any reports of trouble in the lab or complaints about the suspect's past behavior.

“Nothing that I’m aware of,” he said.

—Andrew Blankstein, Anthony Pesce, Larry Gordon and Spencer Weiner

Click here for photos from the scene

Photo: Students comfort each other after a male UCLA student slashed the throat of a female student at a campus science lab today.

Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times