A third stabbing in less than a week in the small city of Davis forced an hourslong shelter-in-place order for the university and large swaths of downtown early Tuesday as authorities conducted a yard-to-yard search for the assailant.
A massive police response came around midnight after a 911 call reported that a woman living in a camp of unhoused people had been stabbed repeatedly through the fabric of her tent. Police combed the surrounding area but didn’t locate the attacker. The shelter-in-place order was lifted about 6 a.m.
The woman was transported to UC Davis Medical Center, where she was listed in critical condition, police said.
Two previous stabbing victims — one a beloved town character attacked Thursday morning in Central Park and the other a UC Davis senior attacked Saturday night in a park near an elementary school — both died at the scene.
The assailant in the latest attack was seen running west toward the town’s commercial area. He was described as a light-skinned man between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-9 with curly hair.
That is the same description of the attacker in Saturday’s fatal stabbing.
The spate of seemingly random violent attacks have stunned residents in the small town of 68,000 just west of Sacramento that had not had a reported homicide since 2019.
In an alert on the Police Department’s Facebook page, officials said the department “understands the uncertainty, fear and panic that is arising in the community.”
The FBI has been called in to assist, as have numerous officers from departments around the region.
“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,” police said.
After the police warnings woke residents in the dead of night, many took to Facebook to warn each other of the latest attack and express their fear and shock about the spate of crimes.
“Shelter in place as of 1:10 a.m,” one woman posted on a local parents group. “I’m so scared.”
“A real serial killer in our town,” added another parent. “This is so scary.”
The first two victims had little in common, except that both were well-known and beloved in the community. David Henry Breaux, 50, was a Stanford University graduate and popular Davis character informally known as “the Compassion guy” for his habit of encouraging people to embody a spirit of compassion.
In 2013, Breaux worked with community members and the city to erect a “Compassion Corner Earthbench.” The bench, to which many contributed ceramic tiles, celebrated the value of compassion.
Breaux was found dead about 11:30 a.m. Thursday in the town’s Central Park, home to its famous farmers market. He appeared to be seated at a picnic bench near the tree-shaded playground. Mothers and their children climbed the play structures nearby, never suspecting anything was amiss. But at least one person noticed and called for a welfare check. Officials responded and discovered that Breaux had been stabbed multiple times.
The second victim was UC Davis student and Davis High School graduate Karim Abou-Najim, who was attacked about 9:15 p.m. Saturday as he biked home from an event at the university.
Najim, who in recent months had posted to social media expressing joy about getting a job as a software engineer, was pronounced dead at the scene.
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