WOODLAND — A bail hearing Friday for UC Davis chemistry researcher David Scott Snyder offered a glimpse of some of the explosive-making materials authorities allegedly seized from his campus apartment and various dump sites around Davis last month.
Reading from a declaration prepared by police and signed by a fellow judge to boost Snyder’s bail to $2 million, Yolo Superior Court Judge David Reed detailed a list that included nitroglycerin, hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD), triacetone triperoxide (TATP) and “unstable” RDX, a highly powerful explosive used in military operations.
Deputy District Attorney Martha Holzapfel also said the 32-year-old Snyder asked a friend to remove incriminating evidence from his Russell Park apartment before police arrived there on the morning of Jan 17, and that he had been reprimanded in the past about creating explosives in a campus lab.
“This is a hobby, and he likes to blow things up. … He’s not going to be able to stop it just because you told him ‘no,’ ” the prosecutor told Reed, who, citing the risk Snyder posed to himself, his neighbors and other segments of the Davis community, denied defense attorney Linda Parisi’s request to reduce bail to $500,000.
Reed also granted the filing of an amended criminal complaint that now charges Snyder with 17 felonies, including four counts of reckless disposal of hazardous waste, two counts of possession of a destructive device or explosive, four counts of possession of materials with intent to make a destructive device, and seven counts of possessing a firearm on university grounds.
Snyder, his left hand still bandaged from an explosion-induced injury he suffered in his apartment, was ordered back to court on March 14 for a pre-hearing conference. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Earlier, Parisi had suggested that the suspicion surrounding Snyder and the items found inside his apartment — including the various explosive-making materials and seven firearms — may be overblown. She described Snyder, who earned both a bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in chemistry from UCD, as a “hard-working person” with no criminal record or animosity toward the university.
“He was the kind of chemist that was always tinkering and experimenting with things,” Parisi said. She added that while most of Snyder’s family resides in Texas and Colorado, he poses no flight risk and would promise to stay away from chemicals and laboratories while his court case is pending.
The guns, she later said outside court, were “antiques” and reflected Snyder’s family’s long-standing interest in marksmanship.
Parisi also told Reed that Snyder provided authorities with the combination to a safe that held some of the firearms, but Holzapfel countered that that was the extent of his cooperation. Along with the weapons, she added, police recovered “multiple boxes of ammunition.”
While Parisi expressed disappointment in Reed’s ruling after the hearing, Holzapfel referred reporters’ questions to Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Cabral, who took issue with Parisi’s portrayal of Snyder as a mere tinkerer.
“Even if he’s just tinkering with these chemicals, he’s tinkering with them in an apartment building in a residential neighborhood,” Cabral said. Asked about the quantities police allegedly found, he said that information is expected to be revealed during Snyder’s preliminary hearing, where a judge will determine whether there is sufficient evidence for the case to go to trial.
However, he did say that one of the explosives detonated while authorities were in the process of removing it from Snyder’s apartment, but that no one was injured.
Cabral said authorities are continuing to investigate the role of the accomplice who is reported to have disposed of evidence from Snyder’s apartment at several locations about town — one at Russell Park and two at other apartment complexes in the Davis city limits. He declined to elaborate on any past warnings Snyder received.
But according to the Feb. 1 issue of Friday Update, a weekly online newsletter sent to faculty and staff at UCD, campus administrators received a complaint about Snyder back in 2011, the same year he earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the university.
According to the newsletter, “campus administrators received a complaint that two years earlier, shortly before July 4, 2009, Snyder and a classmate allegedly had been seen making what were determined to be small firecrackers in a chemistry department lab. The complaint was handled through appropriate campus review processes and closed.”
Snyder’s next brush with trouble came at about 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 17, when he sought treatment at Sutter Davis Hospital for a hand injury and told medical staff the wound stemmed from small explosion inside his apartment. The hospital then alerted police.
Officers responded to the residence, but immediately retreated and evacuated Snyder’s immediate neighbors until an explosives removal team could be assembled and a search warrant obtained. Four additional buildings and a nearby day-care center were evacuated during what turned out to be a 20-hour removal process.
At the time of his arrest on Jan. 19, Snyder, who also holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UCD, had been at the tail end of a two-month junior specialist research position that was to end on Jan. 31. Previously placed on leave from that post, Snyder no longer has any affiliation with UCD, “other than being an alum,” campus spokeswoman Claudia Morain said Friday.
Responding to a request from The Enterprise, Morain also disclosed that the cleanup operation at Snyder’s apartment cost the university $23,000, the majority of it overtime incurred by police officers and firefighters who responded to the scene.
“It does not include costs for outside vendors who may have assisted in the disposal of the chemicals or the follow-up soil testing,” Morain said in an email, referring to the destruction of some volatile materials in a field near the Russell Park complex.
Bomb technicians also detonated some of the materials seized from Snyder’s lab in UCD’s Chemistry Annex building on Jan. 24. Cabral previously said some of the items found in Snyder’s apartment came from the university.
Also not included in the $23,000 figure is the cost of providing food vouchers and hotel accommodations to some of the 75 Russell Park residents, including families with young children, who were displaced during the removal and disposal process, Morain said.
— Reach Lauren Keene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene