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Damon Thompson drew concerns in 2008

By Carolyn McGough and Daniel Schonhaut

October 15, 2009 11:32 pm

CORRECTION: A statement in a previous version of this article used unfortunate language to characterize Damon Thompson’s behavior on Oct. 8. The statement should have read that Thompson was arrested on Oct. 8 on suspicion of attempted murder.

Less than two weeks before he was accused of stabbing a female student in his laboratory class, Damon Thompson complained to the professor of the class that other students had been harassing him.

Thompson, a 20-year-old international student from Belize, also told his teaching assistant that “students were calling him stupid and making fun of his ability to become a research assistant,” according to Alfred Bacher, the professor of the class.

The teaching assistant, however, had noticed no unusual interactions between Thompson and his classmates, Bacher said.

There was “no evidence” Thompson had interacted with his classmates at all.

Stephen Frank, a history professor whose class Thompson took in fall 2008, received similar complaints from Thompson following the final exam in his class.

“Thompson sent (me) three e-mails in the course of one day, and a couple more after that,” Frank said. “In the e-mails, he describes the disruptions to which he was subjected, including that people were making complaints about him.”

According to Frank, Thompson thought that Frank had called him “crazed” and “troubled.”

“I didn’t say anything to him,” Frank said.

Shortly after receiving the e-mails from Thompson, Frank was contacted by Cary Porter, the senior associate dean of students.

Along with e-mailing grievances to his other professors that quarter, Thompson had apparently gone to the dean of students’ office to complain about being harassed by people “pretty much everywhere,” Frank said.

Porter told Frank he had met with Thompson three or four times by the end of the fall 2008 quarter.

He told Frank he would recommend that Thompson make an appointment with Student Psychological Services.

“I asked (Porter) if he thought that suggestions that the student might want to see Student Psychological Services were enough,” Frank said. “His reply was that we can’t force (Thompson) to go.”

Porter did not respond to phone calls or a visit to his office.

In winter 2009, Thompson transferred to a new on-campus apartment.

One of his roommates during winter and spring quarters agreed to speak to The Bruin on condition of anonymity.

“(Thompson) would wake up randomly and just start talking to himself,” the roommate said.

He said Thompson, who mostly kept to himself, would sometimes mutter things under his breath.

“(Thompson) said a lot of curse words and something about “˜I’m gonna eff you up.’ At one point he said like, “˜Oh, you think I’m crazy,’ while I was trying to sleep. “¦ There was no one else in the room,” the roommate said.

Thompson usually slept early and woke up early for class. His roommates, who frequently studied late at night, never really got to know him.

“My other roommate and I avoided (Thompson) at any means. “¦ I didn’t even know his name for half a quarter,” the roommate said.

The only time Thompson spoke to his roommates was to complain. He did not like bright lights and loud noises.

One night during spring quarter, Thompson was trying to sleep when he became distracted by a phone that was vibrating on the floor above him, his roommate said. Thompson walked up to the floor and began arguing with the residents there. University police were eventually called.

Thompson’s roommate said he notified his resident director about Thompson’s strange behavior near the end of spring quarter. The resident director set up a meeting between Thompson and the roommate, but the roommate decided not to show up, and the issue was dropped.

When he found out Thompson had been arrested as a suspect in the stabbing, Thompson’s roommate said he was shocked.

“I would have expected (Thompson) to go off on somebody at some point, but not to that extreme,” he said.

When Thompson complained to Bacher about being harassed by his classmates a few weeks ago, Bacher said he was concerned.

Bacher contacted Porter, who told Bacher to let him know if Thompson expressed further unusual behavior.

“There was no reason for me to think there was any specific problem,” Bacher said. “(Thompson) did not demonstrate any violent behavior.”

Still, Bacher said he had planned to move Thompson into a new section on Oct. 9.

On Oct. 8, Thompson was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

He has pleaded not guilty to one charge of attempted murder and is being held on $3 million bail.

If convicted, Thompson faces a maximum sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Robin Berkovitz, the public defender who was assigned Thompson’s case on Tuesday, said Thompson pleaded not guilty because, “If you say guilty you have no legal leverage over what may happen in the future.”

Berkovitz said she plans to start looking into Thompson’s background and records, but it is still too early to tell what stance the defense will take.

“If a mental health defense “¦ comes to task in the future, you have to plead not guilty until you figure out (an approach),” she added.

Looking back on what occurred, Frank said he thinks more should have been done, although he said he does not know if the stabbing could have been prevented.

“In this case, (Thompson) did not do anything to make himself appear as a threat, but he revealed enough about himself to make it clear he has some problems,” Frank said.

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Carolyn McGough
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