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UCLA student charged with premeditated attempted murder in stabbing, slashing attack [Updated]

A UCLA student allegedly stabbed a classmate five times and slashed her throat in a crime prosecutors said today was premeditated.

Damon Thompson was charged this morning with one count of premeditated attempted murder in the attack last week in a chemistry lab.

Thompson, 20, from Belize, is being held on $1 million bail on suspicion of attempted murder and will be arraigned later today at the Airport Courthouse.

Despite initial reports that there was an argument between the students, prosecutors said today that Thursday's attack was unprovoked and that Thompson pulled out a knife and began stabbing the student for no apparent reason.

[Updated at 12:15 p.m.: The female victim, whose identity has not been released by officials, was taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in critical condition but has been steadily improving, doctors said.

“Our patient is now out of the intensive care unit and out of danger -- and she is in good condition,” Dr. Henry Gill Cryer, professor and chief of trauma surgery at the hospital, said today.]

UCLA professor Stephen Frank, who taught Thompson in his Western Civilization class, said Saturday he told a university administrator 10 months ago that he was concerned about Thompson's mental health after receiving e-mails from the student.

In the e-mails, Thompson complained to Frank that classmates sitting around him had been disruptive and made offensive comments to him while he was taking a written exam, Frank said. In one of the e-mails, Thompson also accused Frank of taunting him.

"I believe I heard you, Professor Frank, say that I was 'troubled' and 'crazy' among other things," Thompson wrote in the e-mail. "My outrage at this situation coupled with the pressure of the very weighted examination dulled my concentration and detracted from my performance."

Frank denied Thompson's claims and told administrators the e-mails indicated Thompson was in need of help, urging university officials to take action. Frank said he was told other professors had reported similar exchanges with Thompson, who complained he was constantly taunted by students across campus -- in dorms, dining areas and the library.

Strict federal privacy laws prevent UCLA officials from disclosing how they handled the issue.

-- Andrew Blankstein

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Comments () | Archives (29)

No surprises here. Anytime you mention anything of concern at a University, no one ever pays attention, whatever it maybe. Not a knock on UCLA, I went to another UC school, but because people simply don't want to beleive anything bad can ever happen (no, he won't do that...no, that'll never happen), these things end up happening.

I beleive only a naive person would be shocked by this, as its common.

The guy was hearing voices. He imagined people were taunting etc. That tells me Schizophrenic or bi-polar disorder. He definitely needed help.

Where is Mr. Thompson's mug shot? Is it being withheld because of his race/ethnicity?

The bad guy in the murder of that student on campus back east had his face plastered all over everything, but oh yes, he is white.

So why is Prof. Frank disclosing the emails? Is he then in violation of school policy? Hasn't he also exposed UCLA to a civil suit by the victim since "management" knew of the risk but didn't act on it?

Academia is so paralyzed with worry over hurt sensibilities that no one takes common-sense preventative steps to expel or treat the troubled student. See Virginia Tech.

Stanley - No where did it say that he was hearing voices.

It also doesn't say if people were actually taunting him. So, he may have been - but that fact is not stated.

University personnel make a mistake when they do not report suspicious activities and behaviors to law enforcement. There are ample examples of universities whose "handling" of touchy situations later resulted in loss of life. The universities are not designed to be law enforcement agencies.

"Strict federal privacy laws prevent UCLA officials from disclosing how they handled the issue."

Obviously badly.

"Strict federal privacy laws prevent UCLA officials from disclosing how they handled the issue."

apparently they didn't sufficiently addressthe situation

The student in question who believed he was being taunted did not necessarily suffer from mental or emotional illness. It is very possible that he was being tormented and taunted by fellow students in his dorm building or in classes. This potential fact in no way, shape or form condones his violent actions, but to assume that his complaints are completely unfounded without research or investigation is inappropriate.

Warnings or not, it's terribly difficult to take action. Unless the student (or anyone for that matter) does something illegal, authorities, supervisors or teachers can do virtually nothing but make others aware of possible trouble (as was the case here).

In a free society, unusual behavior is protected if it doesn't break the law. Unfortunately, it appears from reports that the first actionable behavior on the student's part was this assault.

Why have they not disclosed the name and identity of the victim? It has been well over a week since this occurred. Who are these "officials", anyway? The Police? The University?

Is it possible that whoever is restricting the flow of information may be doing so for reasons of political correctness? Is it possible that the culprit is of Afro-Latin extraction, while the female victim may be either Asian-American or Caucasian, and that "they" are terrified of public image desecration on the heels of the recent murders of Lily Burke and Bryan Richard Frost?

These are legitimate questions and should be addressed in the press.

"The female victim, whose identity has not been released"

Still no photo of the slasher, though his name was released.

Oddly, the Times published full color photos of the Yale lab killer before he was arrested, and still only a suspect.

More of a pattern of different policies based on skin color, which is nothing more and nothing less than racial preference. Lib's, you have a blind spot.

Do any of you who are criticizing UCLA staff work in higher education? In Student affairs? In Student Psychological Services? Are you aware of FERPA? How about HIPAA? How about California law regarding psychotherapist-patient privilege? I promise you that staff "pay attention" to these reports, especially since Virginia Tech and the Shin case. Do you understand issues in predicting low probability events and the problem of false positives? Do you even know what I'm talking about?

What happened here is a student committed a crime that was unforeseeable, but this professor thinks he predicted the crime. People want control in life, and thus believe that all crime is traceable or foreseeable. They want to believe that the crime could have been prevented if only this person had been investigated. But nothing in the emails suggests the student would commit a crime, and the university should not be held liable in any way.

The professor is an idiot for releasing the emails. But more importantly, nothing in the content of the emails released indicates any kind of mental disorder or propensity for violence. At all. In fact, the emails printed in the article show the opposite: a cogent young student serious about his studies and concerned about any interference with it. A professor of Western Civilization is hardly an expert regarding someone's mental health. The information regarding the other professors is incomplete and hence unreliable.

The university could not have done anything. What are they going to say to the student? "Hey, this professor thinks you're unstable or crazy." It would have been extremely improper for the university to act on this unqualified professor's opinion, especially when the email evidence shows a very articulate and mentally stable student. If anything, the university should have reprimanded the professor for not investigating or taking the student's complaints seriously. If anything, the professor should be blamed, not the university.

YOU CANNOT have everyone investigated who seems different or odd to another person. Not only is that bad in general society, but it's even worse in academia, where freedom of thought and expression are the very basis of learning.

Why no photo anywhere of Damon Thompson? Maybe racism on the part of the white media?

i've seen this happen only too often over the years. the schools help create these monsters and then never claim ANY responsibility when things go south. it happens in elementary school as well as high school.

Please do not jump into conclusion about UCLA's handling of Mr. Thompson. UCLA may be up against privacy/patient rights laws.

I have a relative with schizophrenia. The key characteristics of the disease are the patient cannot differentiate between reality and hallucination and the patient refuses to believe that they are ill.

And yet, when I tried to make a doctor's appointment for the relative, I was told that (a) I had no right to make the appointment and (b) the patient cannot be committed unless it is proven that the patient is a danger to him/herself or to others.

I blame this on One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (and starry eyed patient rights advocates) which romanticized people with mental illness. Schizophrenia is one of the most horrific illnesses there is and yet the patient's relatives cannot even make an appointment (when the patient doesn't know he/she is ill)!? What kind of stupid law is that? On top of that, schizophrenia patients cannot be committed unless proven to be dangerous. Well the only way to prove they are dangerous is when they try to kill someone, and by then it may be too late.

So now, thanks to privacy/patient rights law, my relative refuses to see a doctor, or to take medication and is driving her family crazy. She lives in a hallucinatory state. I have no idea what's going to happen to her. Even if we want to help, it would be illegal for us to do so.

In another article that went more into detail, the professor made it very clear that the student was sitting right in front of him during the exam in question and that the "taunting" etc. he claimed occurred, didn't.

We all have to remember that you can't force someone to seek psychiatric help, or takes meds, at all. The law is very clear about this, so what does a university do in a case like this? Neither they, nor anyone else, (unless you're taken into police custody and then I still think it is questionable) can make you take a pill.

I have personally watched a person very close to me fall into bipolar/schizophrenia and the thoughts of persecution and the constant misunderstanding of words and actions are only the beginning. In some extreme cases, as in the case of the one I witnessed, violence is next. But the problem is that there is little way to know what violence may occur, or when, or even ever, and that is the problem.

Obviously none of us know enough to say much of anything on the subject, but I do wonder what will happen if he is shown to be mentally troubled, which honestly, anyone who acts in this manner must be to a certain extent. But can we so easily assign pre-meditation to something like this?

I had professors that were crazy. No really, looking back, they were truly nuts. I bet that if a freshman told the dean's office that he believed his tenured professor was insane, it would probably be ignored.

Unfortunately, in our insane society, anyone who tries to use common sense and report strange people and their behavior runs the risk of getting sued. Plus, you can't just report anything, you have to be then sucked in and totally involved by filling out scores of forms and being questioned yourself. God Bless the Lawyers for fouling up everything.

Look, if the girl was taunting him maybe she had it coming. Everybody here is quick to level blame on the alleged attacker, but maybe he had a good set of reasons for his actions.

It isn't right to taunt a guy during class, and I agree a throat slashing is a bit excessive, but calling her a victim might be going to far.

Remembering back to my days of college there were vacuous coeds who would smack their gum and tap their pencils during my tests and I wanted to stab them too. Does that make me crazy? Sometimes a person just has enough...

Let's not be so quick to assign labels like "victim" and "perpetrator."

Anyone sense the lawyer going straight for the insanity plea ? That wonderful cover all / blame someone else / out in 5 cop out !

I am wrong in assuming that Thompson used a lab tool. If he brought in a personal weapon from home and into the lab to inflict violence on the victim, that is clearly pre-meditation.

Thompson wrote Prof. Frank to tell him that he was aware of the comments Franks was making about him . . . Frank denies making the comments, then tells UCLA Administrators the very same thing he previously denied saying?? Hmm...seems like this guy really was being picked on; the Prof. can not be trusted.

Reply to Jolie | October 13, 2009 at 03:16 PM

You mean
Theodore John Kaczynski

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