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Mystery surrounds attack at UCLA chemistry laboratory [Updated]

October 9, 2009 | 12:33 pm


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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