The couple and their two children, then 2 and 4, fled the flames by climbing down a second-floor fire escape. Feldheim bruised his feet as he scrambled to safety, but the rest of his family was unharmed.
Minutes later, outside a cluster of faculty residences on campus, a second firebomb ripped through an unoccupied Volvo station wagon belonging to one of Feldheim's colleagues. Because the incidents occurred just four days after the discovery of fliers threatening harm to UCSC scientists who use animals in their research, it was immediately clear to police what likely motivated the attackers.
The fliers, left on a community billboard at a downtown coffee shop, contained pictures, photos, home addresses and phone numbers of Feldheim and a dozen other UCSC scientists. The crudely made pamphlets, printed on 8-by-11-inch white copy paper, warned: "We know where you work, we know where you live."
At the time of the firebombings, authorities had been investigating a string of animal-rights incidents targeting the University of California, including firebombings of vehicles connected to UCLA scientists, as well as trespassing and vandalism at the homes of professors and lab aides at UCSC and UC Berkeley. But no one expected the kind of violence that would follow.
Joseph Buddenberg, Maryam Khajavi, Nathan Pope and Adriana Stumpo are being charged in federal court under the 2006 Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which replaced the 1992 law by expanding protections for researchers. Authorities say the four have been linked to the home demonstration and other alleged crimes through video surveillance footage and threatening fliers found in their possession.
FBI spokeswoman Patti Hansen said Friday she could not discuss whether agents have linked them to the firebombings. The defendants are free on bail while they test the constitutionality of the 2006 law by appealing what their lawyers characterize as a sweeping restriction of free speech rights. The next hearing in the case is Sept. 14 in U.S. District Court in San Jose.
SANTA CRUZ - The night before masked demonstrators rattled the door of a UC Santa Cruz biomedical researcher's home in February 2008, famed animal rights advocate Peter Young gave a speech at the Louden Nelson Community Center.
The 32-year-old Los Gatos native, who served two years in prison after being convicted in 2005 of setting minks free from farms in the Midwest, had returned to Santa Cruz just four months earlier.
According to an official at the Louden Nelson center, a young man named Nathan Pope - who would later be charged in what police called a home-invasion attempt targeting the researcher - had booked the room for Young's appearance.
In wide-ranging interviews with the Sentinel, Young spoke at great length about his passionate views against the use of animals for research, food and entertainment. One of the things he wouldn't discuss, however, is how he knows Pope - a former Cabrillo College student who, along with Pope's fiancee and two others, is charged in the home demonstration and a string of other incidents harassing UC researchers.
Young, who has legendary status among animal rights activists for being sent to prison, said he had no role in the home demonstration or firebombings that followed targeting other UCSC researchers - the one-year anniversary of which is today. Young said he was not questioned by authorities in either case.
Because the firebombings occurred three months before voters would weigh Proposition 2, a measure designed to limit confinement of farm animals, Young said he was suspicious that the attacks were conducted by someone wanting to undermine the animal rights movement. He also said he found it odd that there was no communique from Animal Liberation Front or other groups taking responsibility.
In deciding to cut animal products out of his diet, Young said he drew inspiration from Soquel author John Robbins' ground-breaking book, "Diet for a New America." Young joined animal-rights demonstrations, but said, "There was a point where I realized I had looked back on two years of activism and found what I was doing was well intentioned but I couldn't say I had saved animals.
"That's when I began to escalate my tactics," he said.
He studied the Animal Liberation Front, whose anonymous activists claimed responsibility for breaking into animal research facilities and farms, setting free rabbits, mice and a host of other creatures used in experimentation. He pinpointed the location of chicken farms and slaughterhouses and started releasing animals.