Science Careers Blog

August 4, 2008

Researchers in California Targeted by Firebombers

A recent Science Careers article on the career impact of animal research controversies noted, "animal researchers must walk a tough line, balancing the needs of science and society, the welfare of their animal subjects, their personal ethics, and--occasionally--threats to their personal safety and the safety of loved ones." That danger to researchers and their families became all too real on Saturday in Santa Cruz, California.

The San Jose Mercury-News reported on Saturday that two researchers suffered firebomb attacks, one on the victim's home and the other on a car, in Santa Cruz. Both victims are faculty members at University of California at Santa Cruz.

One of the faculty members targeted, David Feldheim, is a neuroscientist who uses mice in some of his experiments. According to police, the attack on Feldheim's home took place early Saturday morning, while his family was at home. The entire family, including two young children, managed to escape, but Feldheim later said he suffered bruising that will require him to walk on crutches until he recovers.

In a separate incident, a car was firebombed while parked in a driveway of a campus residence inhabited by another university researcher. Police have not yet released the name of the car's owner.

Feldheim was one of 13 Santa Cruz researchers listed on fliers found at a local coffee shop on Tuesday. The fliers said the researchers used mice, fruit flies, and other sub-primate species in their experiments, and included home addresses, telephone numbers, and photos of the researchers. The owner of the firebombed car was not one of the researchers listed on the fliers.

The Mercury-News reports today that the FBI has taken over the case. Santa Cruz police chief Steve Clark says his department is investigating the attack on Feldheim as an attempted homicide because his family was at home at the time.

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