Officials in Davis, California, have withdrawn an overnight shelter-in-place order after failing to apprehend a suspect in a knife attack late Monday – the third such incident in less than a week near the University of California, Davis campus.
The unexpected order came in the aftermath of Monday’s stabbing, which left a lady in serious condition. That attack was preceded by the killings of Karim Abou Najm, a senior at the University of California, Davis, on Saturday evening, and David Breaux, 50, on Thursday in different parks near campus.
Following the violence, the university’s chancellor, Gary S. May, announced on Tuesday that all classes ending after 6 p.m. would now be held virtually, and he encouraged all clubs and other student activities meeting after that time to do the same.
The police chief describes the attacks as “particularly violent and brazen”
Authorities are looking through hundreds of tips, but they have not definitively linked the three incidents, which Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel described as “particularly violent and brazen” in a news conference Tuesday.
Pytel drew attention to the commonalities between them: He described two “particularly brutal” homicides in municipal parks, while the suspect or suspects in the second homicide and Monday night’s attack also communicated with witnesses. This signals daring activity, which causes authorities “significant concern,” according to Pytel.
The third stabbing was reported to police at 11:46 p.m. Monday, according to a city news release, which stated that the crime “occurred in a known transient camp” near 2nd and L streets.
Pytel stated that when the female victim called 911 to report being stabbed, police first received a 911 call regarding a disturbance at a tent nearby. She was transported to UC Davis Medical Center, where she is currently being treated in the ICU for a serious but stable condition.
The Davis Police Department said in a statement that officers conducted a “detailed search” of downtown Davis overnight but could not find the suspect. The shelter-in-place order was removed, but residents were reminded to “continue to be aware of your surroundings.”
The suspect was described by police as a male with curly hair, a slim physique, and a light complexion standing between 5-foot-6 and -9 inches tall. He wore a black or blue hoodie, black leggings with white stripes, and a brown backpack.
The suspects in Saturday’s homicide and Monday’s attack are “substantially similar,” according to Pytel.
The suspect in Saturday’s deadly knife assault is described as a “light-skinned male, possibly Hispanic,” between the ages of 19 and 23, standing between 5 feet, 7 inches and 5 feet, 8 inches tall, with long curly hair, according to city police in Davis, California.
The FBI has joined state and local law enforcement in a manhunt for the culprit, which, according to Henry, involves every agency in the county as well as assistance from adjacent counties. Investigators are concentrating on scrutinizing physical evidence while searching through leads, which poured in after police described the attacker on Saturday, according to Pytel.
“We are looking for DNA that will help us find the offender,” Pytel said at a press conference on Tuesday, adding that physical evidence had been submitted to crime labs in the hopes of finding a common thread.
Pytel further stated that there is no city surveillance or video of the attacks.
‘A highly conspicuous presence’ is promised by the police
Last Thursday morning, cops attended to a welfare check in Central Park and discovered the 50-year-old slouched over on a park seat where he frequently sat or slept, according to Pytel. According to the early investigation, Breaux had multiple stab wounds.
On Saturday night, a resident in nearby Sycamore Park reported hearing a disturbance near his home. When the resident went outside to investigate, he discovered a man with multiple stab wounds, later identified as Abou Najm, according to Pytel. He also spoke briefly with the suspect, who then escaped.
The public university in Davis, a city of about 68,000 inhabitants about a 20-minute drive west of the state capital, Sacramento, has about 40,000 students enrolled.
The Davis Police Department stated Sunday that more officers were being assigned to patrol surrounding schools and parks and that it “understands the uncertainty, fear, and panic that is arising in the community.”
“At this time, it is strongly recommended that the community remain vigilant, be aware of your surroundings, and call the Davis Police Department if anyone acting violent, suspicious, or matching the description provided is seen,” officials stated.
While Davis does not have a curfew, Pytel said Tuesday that the city is “stepping up patrols all over town.”
“We intend to have a very visible presence,” he continued.
UC Davis junior Henry Li told the associated press that the longer the hunt goes on, the more seriously he considers leaving town, possibly for the entire summer, or even transferring to another school.
“Nobody should go to class knowing they could be murdered,” Li remarked. “It’s just not worth it.”
Extra patrols were also added to the campus, and the UC Davis Police Safe Rides Program, which provides free rides and walking escorts to students on campus after dark, would be expanded, the chancellor announced on Sunday, calling the student’s death “deeply unsettling.”
UC Davis Police stated Monday evening that the university has hired additional security workers from a private Sacramento-based security service.
The victim had told his sister to ‘forgive the perpetrator’
Abou Najm’s relatives informed KCRA that the 20-year-old was returning home from an undergraduate award ceremony when he was assassinated.
“I want this to be his memory: a bundle of energy, a bundle of positivity,” Majdi Abou Najm said of his son. “Someone who was ambitious, proud of his roots, and simply wanted to make the world a better place.”
One of his classmates, Chipman, claimed the computer science major had a promising future because he “had a lot of opportunities, research, internships.”
“Someone got robbed of their future,” Chipman said to the station. “People who do things like that are heartless. Seeing someone I knew made me feel a little more intensely. It’s very sad.”
Breaux, the first attack victim, was a fixture in the neighborhood known as “Compassion Guy,” according to a statement from the mayor and City Council, who said he routinely asked passersby about their perspectives on compassion.
“The death of David Breaux is utterly and completely devastating,” stated Davis Mayor Will Arnold. “Many of us knew David.” We talked with him. We believed in his vision of a better world.”
Breaux’s sister stated her brother had been on a lifelong mission to define “compassion” collectively and had recently opted to live outside, in a safe area of Davis.
But he had warned his sister that he was vulnerable to threats and had once urged her to forgive anyone who might harm him.
In a Facebook post to Maria Breaux in 2016, her brother said, “If I’m ever harmed, unable to speak for myself, forgive the perpetrator and help others forgive that person.”