WESTWOOD, Calif. -- Drivers of vans used to bring 2,400 UCLA employees to work have been told to check underneath their vehicles for suspicious devices, and to be alert for vandalism, the university said this week.
Extremists connected with an animal rights group have posted anonymous warnings that they have placed shotgun shells inside van mufflers to trigger fires in an effort to persuade university researchers to stop using live animals for medical studies.
"There are roughly 12 (give or take a few, they'll have to find the exact number) of those UCLA vans driving around with unfired shotgun shells in their mufflers," said a anonymous letter e-mailed to several news agencies, including City News Service.
UCLA Police have investigated "and found no evidence to support the claims," said spokesman Phil Hampton in an interview with the Daily Bruin.
The renewed warning comes after animal rights protestors claimed responsibility for burning UCLA commuter vans twice in October, claims that the school has rejected as unfounded.
In messages e-mailed to news organizations over the last month, animal rights activists claimed credit for two fire bomb incidents against UCLA vans.
But the school says none of the 150 UCLA vans have been burned since a vanpool vehicle parked in a park-and-ride lot in Irvine was torched on June 3. No one was injured, although the state-owned van was extensively damaged.
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In August, the home of a UC Santa Cruz researcher was firebombed, and the two adults and two small children in that apartment escaped the fire by going down a rope ladder from the second floor. Animal rights extremists claimed credit for that attack.
Some extreme animal rights protestors have advocated violence against UC researchers who use live animals to test diagnoses, treatments and cures for humans. Most animal rights advocates, however, have criticized the extremists and demanded that they stop acting violently.
But school officials are wary, and issued a statement assuring students and staff that the school's police department is investigating the claims.
"The tactics used by these extremists opposed to the use of laboratory animals in research are beyond reprehensible," said Roberto Peccei, UCLA vice chancellor for research. "It is difficult to put into words the our outright contempt and disgust at terrorists at terrorists targeting commuters and property that are in no way associated with animal research."