Rogue UC Davis Chemist Gets 4-Year Sentence for Blowing Up Apartment
After imposing a sentence of four years and four months upon David Scott Snyder, 34, a former UC Davis chemist, for causing an explosion in his UC Davis residence, Yolo Superior Court Judge Stephen Mock stated the defendant’s actions “were reckless in the extreme.”
Before receiving his sentence, Snyder played several slide shows in the courtroom, which he narrated to explain what had happened in his Russell Park apartment on the morning of January 17, 2013. He had, he said, been conducting experiments involving “electrochemical denitrification.” This is a process of removing nitrates and ammonia from contaminated drinking water, which would help stop the spread of kidney disease and diarrhea in third world countries. But then an unstable mixture exploded and injured his hand.
Snyder then drove himself to a nearby hospital. Hospital staff became suspicious and called Davis Police. Snyder called a friend, Tashari El-Sheikh, from the hospital and directed him to remove incriminating evidence from his apartment. Police said El-Sheikh, a postdoctoral employee at UCD, deposited boxes full of chemicals in dumpsters around West Davis. El-Sheikh has since fled the country, apparently to Amsterdam according to his Facebook profile.
Eventually, Snyder’s apartment complex had to be evacuated for 20 hours while bomb squad investigators removed dangerous chemicals.
Narrating another slide show, Snyder asserted that guns found in his apartment were simply the result of carrying on a family tradition of weapons collecting and marksmanship.
Snyder had faced more than 20 years in state prison if he had been convicted at trial of all the counts, which included reckless disposal of hazardous waste, possession of a destructive device or explosive, possession of materials with intent to make a destructive device and possession of a firearm on university grounds.
“David Snyder was thinking about David Snyder. He knew what he was doing in that apartment was wrong. That’s why he tried to mitigate it by involving somebody else” prosecuting attorney Martha Holzapfel said Friday in arguing for a longer sentence.