Davis police call frat house gas leak ‘deliberate trap’

Police said Monday that a weekend gas leak and attempted arson at a Davis fraternity house was a deliberate trap intended to maim and kill, and have called on federal agents to aid in the investigation.

“Clearly, this was not a prank,” Davis police Assistant Chief Darren Pytel said of the Sunday incident at Kappa Sigma house. “This was clearly set to cause a fire and explosion.”

Pytel said Davis police, who are leading the investigation, have contacted the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and are working with university fire and police departments. UC Davis spokesman Keith Sterling said the university is “deeply concerned” by Sunday’s events and has pledged to “do anything we can to assist” in the probe.

Davis police were called about 1 p.m. Sunday to the off-campus fraternity in the 600 block of Adams Street near Russell Boulevard and Highway 113, a townhouse-style building in the center of a neighborhood densely packed with multi-family apartments, police officials said.

Pytel said fraternity members first detected the strong odor of natural gas 12 hours earlier at about 1 a.m. Sunday along with evidence that someone tried to set a fire to trigger the fumes. Pytel said whoever caused the gas leak was “deliberately setting a trap where someone could be injured or killed.”

Meanwhile, shaken fraternity members on their organization’s Facebook page Monday thanked well-wishers. The members said they were “very fortunate and grateful that there were no serious injuries or fatalities, and that the house itself is fine.”

“Though we are shaken and deeply unsettled, our brotherhood will give us the strength to get through this ordeal and be the stronger for it....We hope that no further attacks are made against any of our members or on any of the citizens of Davis in the future,” the statement read.

Pytel said six fraternity members were at the home Sunday. No one was hurt. Many, he said, elected to stay.

Campus students and staff learned of the incident via text and email through the university’s WarnMe emergency notification system. Police and university officials called on students and UC Davis’ active Greek community to be “hypervigilant,” Pytel said.

Students living in nearby apartments were still trying to piece together what happened. Aarryn Jones lives next door to Kappa Sigma. He came home Sunday to the sight of barrier tape and the smell of smoke.

“We talked to the officer,” Jones said. “All he could say was that there was a fire here. That’s what he told us.”

Extra patrols have been assigned to the area, along with a Davis police evidence response team, authorities said. Several Davis police investigators have been assigned to the case.

“We don’t have any suspects or obvious leads,” Pytel said at Davis police headquarters. “There was nothing that suggested they were being targeted.”

Kappa Sigma’s Beta Phi Chapter received its charter in 2012 and is one of the newest fraternities on the UC Davis campus, according to its Facebook page, which boasts that the house is “one of the fastest growing members of the UC Davis Greek community.”

The local chapter had recently moved to Adams Street from A Street, its 2012 home, and held its fall rush in October.

Anyone with information can call Davis Police Department at (530)747-5400.