Crime - Sacto 911

Scientist visiting UC Davis on research trip robbed at gunpoint, loses priceless data

An entomologist visiting UC Davis for a five-month research trip was robbed at gunpoint last week, losing cash, a brand-new laptop and an external hard drive containing precious scientific data and lecture materials, according to Davis police and a spokesperson at the university.

The Davis Police Department in a news release Wednesday said it received two reports of robberies occurring last week on public streets. One occurred on the Mace Boulevard overpass along Interstate 80 at about 3:53 p.m. Sept. 19, and the other happened along Russell Boulevard west of Highway 113 around 11:30 p.m. last Friday.

The victim in the latter incident was identified as Syed Fahada Shah, according to a blog post published this week by Kathy Garvey, spokeswoman for UC Davis’ entomology department. Shah is an entomology lecturer at the University of Agriculture, Peshawar, in Pakistan, visiting Davis from May through late October as part of a “research sabbatical on agriculturally important insects,” Garvey wrote.

According to Garvey, Shah was walking home from the lab toward his Davis apartment because his bike had a flat tire. He was walking along Russell Boulevard near Lake Boulevard when an armed man jumped out from behind a tree and pointed a gun at him, demanding his wallet, phone and backpack, the blog post said. The news release by the Davis Police Department describes the weapon as a dark-colored handgun, pulled from the suspect’s waistband.

The suspect, described as a man in his 20s, about 6 feet tall, with curly hair and a dark-colored bandana, threw Shah’s cellphone into a nearby field before fleeing into an awaiting car driven by an accomplice. The vehicle, described as a dark-colored sedan, left the scene heading west, according to the blog post and police news release.

Garvey wrote that the robber “stole the entomologist’s wallet containing his rent money and credit cards, his newly purchased laptop, and an external hard drive containing scientific data.”

That 1-terabyte hard drive held “all his research data and lectures,” Garvey wrote.

Shah is visiting the Bohart Museum of Entomology, located on the main UC Davis campus, as part of his research stay. Garvey says the lecturer is collaborating with museum scientists to study parasitoid wasps.

Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum, wrote in an announcement to the entomology department that Shah “filed a police report but that probably won’t help get his equipment back.”

“The data is irreplaceable but we hope to help him replace the things stolen, so we have started a GoFundMe page to raise the needed fund,” Kimsey continued.

That GoFundMe page, which sought $2,000 for Shah, had exceeded $3,000 in donations as of Thursday morning.

The other robbery last week, occurring Sept. 19 at the Mace Boulevard overpass on I-80, involved two males in a blue sedan approaching a victim and demanding money, according to the police news release. One suspect was described as a man in his late 30s, approximately 5-foot-7, with a beard, who was wearing a white collared T-shirt and yellow pants. The other suspect was described as a man in his 40s, about 6-foot-1, with short, dark hair, who was wearing a beige kurta. Both suspects were described by police as Asian males.

The description of the Sept. 19 robbery by Davis police made no mention of a weapon. “Large amounts of currency” were taken from the victims in each robbery, police say.

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.