Photo: David Xu
BERKELEY — Rivalries sometimes produce a poisonous workplace environment—literally. A prominent engineering expert was arrested for allegedly attempting to poison his workplace colleague with a toxic metal.
A principal engineer at Berkeley Engineering and Research Inc. faces four felony charges involving poisoning. David Xu, 34 of Lafayette, was taken into custody at the close of business on March 28.
Xu remains in custody at Berkeley City Jail, pending his plea hearing on April 4 at the Alameda County Courthouse. Xu is suspected of putting cadmium into his colleague’s food and water, when she stepped away from her office.
Cadmium has anti-corrosive properties used in steel plating and until recently batteries. If handled improperly, cadmium is toxic even at low levels of exposure, and can cause death.
Xu’s colleague experienced health problems requiring medical care on several occasions. The victim told authorities that her food and water smelled and tasted strange, immediately before she became ill.
Authorities identified Xu as a suspect for incidents occurring in October 2017, and November and December 2018. Indeed, recorded surveillance videos show Xu putting something into his colleague’s water bottle.
Later this investigation was expanded to include two more potential victims. Laboratory analysis revealed the presence of cadmium in the victim’s body and inside a water bottle used by the victim. In addition, two relatives who shared the victim’s water bottle also tested positive for cadmium.
Based on the evidence gathered, Xu is charged with premeditated murder and causing great bodily injury. He also faces two separate charges for poisoning.