During their investigation into Wednesday night’s evacuation of the Tercero residence halls, police have discovered that there was an explosion earlier in the evening, said a UC Davis spokesperson on Monday.
On Thursday, students told police and the media that they had heard explosions several hours prior to the mandatory evacuation, but police were unable to confirm such assertions at the time.
Police now believe that explosions did in fact occur Wednesday night at 6 p.m. from the third floor balcony of the Tercero D building, said UC Davis spokesperson Julia Ann Easley.
Approximately three hours later, police evacuated over 450 students from all Tercero residence halls after receiving a report from a concerned parent that a student living in the Tercero D building was in possession of explosives. Stranded students spent the night at the Tercero Dining Commons but were allowed to return to their residences the following afternoon.
After questioning four students, police arrested first-year student economics major Mark Woods, 18, of Torrance, Calif., for possession of chemicals to make explosives and possession of explosives on school grounds. Woods, who lives on the third floor of the Tercero D building, was booked into Yolo County Jail on Wednesday night and was released on $100,000 bail Thursday afternoon.
Woods, who is charged with two felonies, will appear at Yolo County Superior Court for his arraignment on Apr. 4 at 1:30 p.m., a court official said.
Police discovered PVC piping and various unmixed chemicals in Woods’ room, said UC Davis Police Department Captain Joyce Souza.
“There were basically shells of devices that had not been loaded,” she said Thursday afternoon. “We confirmed that those devices did not have any of the explosives in them. However, what was on scene chemical-wise would have been able to be used in that way.”
The Sacramento regional bomb team and the campus Office of Environmental Health and Safety removed five plastic bins “the size of milk crates” containing powders and chemicals, according to a Mar. 7 UC Davis news release.
Sam Shackelford, one of Woods’ roommates, said he once saw two cups filled with white powder, but had never seen plastic bins full of chemicals.
“I mean, honestly, he shouldn’t have had [the chemicals], but his intentions weren’t to harm anybody,” said Shackelford, a first-year aeronautical science and engineering major.
Shackelford said he was not in his room when Wednesday’s explosion allegedly occurred, but suggested the noise might have been come from a heating and cooling plant located across the street.
Police also believe Woods did not intend to use his explosives maliciously. Meanwhile, Woods’ friends have rallied to his defense, saying he is an inquisitive intellectual who loves science experiments. They created a “Mark is Harmless” facebook.com group, which now boasts over 170 members.
Shackelford said many of the Tercero D building residents support Woods, whom he characterized as their “go-to guy.”
Shackelford said he was not surprised that Woods was experimenting with chemicals, as he is a naturally curious person.
“He is well-rounded. He is an economics major, but he was taking Russian and Japanese [and] he is into science,” Shackelford said.
PATRICK McCARTNEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.