Randall Benton / rbenton@sacbee.com

David Snyder, seen at his January arraignment, allegedly had Tashari El-Sheikh take him to a hospital and remove explosive chemicals from his UC Davis campus apartment.

Second man charged in Davis explosion

Published: Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Aug. 5, 2013 - 10:47 am

Things had quickly gone south for David Snyder.

His hand was torn and bleeding from the volatile chemicals that exploded after midnight as he mixed them in his Davis apartment. Police and the bomb squad would soon be on their way, and he needed to get to a hospital fast.

Snyder was in trouble and knew whom he had to call, according to a police investigator.

Tashari El-Sheikh, Snyder's childhood friend and Davis neighbor, picked up the phone in the middle of that January night, the investigator testified in Yolo Superior Court last week.

Now prosecutors have charged El-Sheikh, identified in a UC Davis directory as a post-doctorate employee in mechanical and aerospace engineering, as an accessory to a felony for allegedly removing the explosive chemicals from Snyder's blast-damaged apartment and disposing of them in trash bins scattered across the city. Prosecutors filed the complaint Wednesday in Yolo Superior Court.

Snyder has pleaded not guilty to 17 explosives- and weapons-related charges related to the blast in the early morning hours of Jan. 17 at his Russell Park apartment complex in Davis. He remains free on $2 million bail.

Snyder may learn at a Sept. 6 hearing whether he will stand trial in connection with the blast.

During a preliminary hearing last week, authorities first disclosed the name of the friend believed to have aided Snyder in the hours following the blast.

Michael Cabral, Yolo County assistant chief deputy district attorney, said that El-Sheikh was not believed to be in the country and that prosecutors did not know where he was Friday.

El-Sheikh had to work fast that January night, said UC Davis police Detective Kevin Skaife. Snyder "thought he had blown his hand off," Skaife testified, and wanted a ride to Sutter Davis Hospital.

A bomb detail soon ordered dozens of apartment dwellers to evacuate.

Skaife in testimony said El-Sheikh told investigators that Snyder later asked him to dispose of bottles of chemicals left in Snyder's kitchen.

Prosecutors allege Snyder had several common explosives: a vial of triacetone-triperoxide, known by its initials TATP; hexamethylene triperoxide diamine, or HMTD; RDX, the powerful ingredient in blasting caps and military C-4 explosive; and nitroglycerine.

UC Davis police Sgt. Paul Henoch also testified that he found chemicals and chemical formulas. On Snyder's computer screen, Henoch saw information regarding nitrocellulose – a flammable compound that is the main component of gunpowder.

Prosecutors said there were so many bottles in Snyder's apartment that El-Sheikh had to return home for more boxes.

Investigators later found boxes with the explosive chemicals in Dumpsters at two apartment complexes on Portage Bay West in Davis, as well as a 5-gallon plastic bucket with materials at another location.

Authorities had contacted El-Sheikh in the early days of the investigation. Though allegations hadn't been filed, Skaife said El-Sheikh was "very concerned" about talking to the police.

El-Sheikh was later instructed by an attorney not to answer any further questions, Skaife said. It's not clear when his whereabouts became unknown.

Call The Bee's Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.\

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