Panorama of Sycamore Park and the memorial to Karim
A bit over 10 years ago I wrote a blog post that I repost all the time. Entitled "A day to think, to pause, to ponder" it was posted on my dad's birthday and was about the pain of him dying, by suicide, when I was in college. It was meant as a sad, melancholy post but also one about the importance of compassion and how "we can all do a little bit to improve how we treat other." When I reposted this one time a few years ago, someone asked me if I had ever met the "Compassion Guy" who frequented downtown Davis and who had a life's mission of getting people to think about compassion. I told them, yes, indeed I had and I had talked to him on and off over the years about this topic at or near the farmer's market or at his "Compassion Corner" bench area.
And thus, a few days ago, I was devastated when I found out that "Compassion Guy", aka David Breaux, was the person whose body was found April 27 in Central Park in downtown Davis. He had been murdered. And initial reports indicated that the Police did not have any good clues as to what had happened because there were no witnesses.
When I found out that this was David I posted a few things to social media because I wanted to make sure people knew that he was a good person, an interesting person, and was not just some random bit of information.
Very sad and shocking. I talked to David relatively frequently https://t.co/7jLbcMtYme— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) April 28, 2023
And I am glad I posted this because many people responded to also say that David had impacted them.
So senselessly tragic. I saw David for years on 3rd before the compassion bench was built in his honor. A human truly loved by the Davis community. My favorite definition from his book was something like "compassion is sharing your Co-Op chocolate chip cookie with someone else". https://t.co/ENKh9kk0jx— Vince Buffalo (@vsbuffalo) April 28, 2023
'She recalled meeting Breaux on what she described as a “dark day,” having heard of yet another school shooting in the U.S.— Ted Hand (@t3dy) April 29, 2023
“I was just feeling very negative,” Tafoya said. “We sat and we talked, and he made me realize that going out there and doing something was compassion.” https://t.co/XIDHNaWjJG
I also posted this to other places, like Facebook, and there I found out that Nat Pearson, who I had known since I was a PhD student at Stanford and he was and undergrad there, had been a first year dorm mate of David's and also had wonderful things to say about him.
I had planned to go visit "Compassion Corner" on Saturday during my regular bike outing to the Farmer's market but alas I could not since I had to go to UC Davis Medical Center for an MRI.
Suspect description from Davis PD:— Zach Boetto (@FOX40Zach) April 30, 2023
- Lightskin male
- Height: 5’7-5’8
- 19-23 years of age
- Long curly loose hair
- Last seen wearing a white hat & a light colored t-shirt
- Riding a bike with straight handle bars@cityofdavispd @FOX40 https://t.co/CIWg3vCDib
And soon we found out that the victim was a UC Davis student - Karim Majdi Abou Najm
This is Karim Abou-Najim. He is the victim in the deadly stabbing at Sycamore Park in Davis. Family friends tell us he was riding his bike home from his award ceremony for his research work. The 20-year-old was graduating in just 10 days from UC Davis. @CBSSacramento pic.twitter.com/BEKmE6xnyT— Tori Apodaca (@tori_apodaca) May 1, 2023
And this was of course horrific. A second murder in this sleepy town of Davis. And a UC Davis student. And for me, someone who I had multiple direct and indirect connections to. Just horrific.
😢😢😢😢😢😢😢 https://t.co/2jXFSDxIh6— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) May 1, 2023
I decided that some NatureTherapy for me and others might be useful.
It is a sad and scary time right now in #davisca and at @ucdavis due to recent murders. I thought some #naturetherapy might be useful for me and others. From the @ucdavis Arboretum https://t.co/lK97RdV8VH pic.twitter.com/cSquRgaaGd— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) May 1, 2023
Stunning sight at @ucdavis Riparian Preserve this AM. Male Western Tanager with snack. Some #NatureTherapy for a wounded university at town. #DavisCA https://t.co/FLet4dDzqN pic.twitter.com/FNrKNJZQ09— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) May 1, 2023
Really feeling sad about the recent murders in #davisca - thinking of the two people who were killed and all their families, friends, and colleagues - spent a lot of the day in nature thinking of them - here is some #naturetherapy from #yolobypass pic.twitter.com/0cfi5uEEN9— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) May 2, 2023
Been a rough few days here in #DavisCA so I spent much of the day out in nature trying to rebalance. At the end of the day I was driving home and took a little detour on a rural farm road in #DavisCA and saw this guy. Blue Grosbeak. Not a bad ending to my day of #NatureTherapy. https://t.co/Hi5ljBOtnu pic.twitter.com/oCzlBNOGiD— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) May 2, 2023
And these got some nice responses that indicated they helped some other people out there. And then in the middle of the night we got a phone call and multiple text messages telling us there was a third stabbing.
And despite a shelter in place order the suspect got away
Third stabbing in Davis — suspect eludes manhunt after shelter-in-place downtown, at UC Davis https://t.co/MmQ8g8tmlE— Marcos Breton (@MarcosBreton) May 2, 2023
Later we found out that the victim fortunately survived but was seriously wounded.
Meeting is back on.— KCRA Lee Anne Denyer (@KCRALeeAnne) May 3, 2023
The victim from last night's stabbing, the police chief says, underwent surgery but is awake, alert and talking. She is in critical condition but making progress, he said.
More: https://t.co/z6lU2liJWi @kcranews
And all around town and at UC Davis people were justifiably both devastated and scared. So for the class I am currently teaching, we put into place every measure we could to let students NOT have to come to class in the wake of such incidents. And despite UC Davis focusing on only nighttime safety, some of us also understood that students might be afrain in the day time too (with good reason I might add).
To everyone in the @ucdavis and #DavisCA area, be careful out there. But also, while attacks have happened at nighttime, @ucdavis & @cityofdavispd should also be emphasizing at least some caution and extra protections during daytime until the person(s)responsible are caught https://t.co/4ftKlDf6HL— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) May 2, 2023
That morning I went out for some #NatureTherapy again but this time decided to not go to too isolated a place on campus and went off campus:
I then went to "Compassion Corner" to pay tribute to David. I took some pics and posted them.
And also made a video panorama
Video panorama of Compassion Corner pic.twitter.com/Wdu6QpUNhT— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) May 2, 2023
Turns out, they were watching overhead as police were questioning a person of interest who had been caught near Sycamore Park and was eventually broungt in to be interviewed.
Person of interest in Davis stabbings detained, police say https://t.co/a7KIa4g8kU— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) May 4, 2023
Meanwhile, a fund had been set up in honor of Karim and I donated to it and suggested other do so too.
I encourage everyone to donate to this fund in honor of @ucdavis undergrad Karim Majdi Abou Najm who was killed last week in #DavisCA— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) May 4, 2023
Memorial Undergraduate Student Research Award https://t.co/c1gV0ZuCe9
This was when I found out that Nadine Yehya, who I knew from various science communications functions and from Twitter interactions was Karim's mother.
Thank you Johnathan for donating and keeping his legacy alive. Karim is my son who was taken from us all prematurely— Nadine Yehya, PhD (@yehya_nadine) May 4, 2023
I went back out for more #NatureTherapy for myself and to share
Still spending a lot of time in nature trying to process everything happening in #DavisCA and thinking of the stabbing victims and their families and friends. Tuesday I drove around with my daughter at dusk and got a nice pic of an owl in rural #DavisCA https://t.co/xh5dlDB2Ey pic.twitter.com/g5e0qj0r8l— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) May 4, 2023
And I then went to the memorial for Karim in Sycamore Park and tried to get some nice pics there.
I went by the memorial for Karim in Sycamore Park in #DavisCA today. So very sad but also moving. Thinking of Karim and his family and friends today.— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) May 4, 2023
Please consider donating the the fund to create a @ucdavis Undergraduate Student Research Award in his honor (see below). https://t.co/uOtIKI2Tzz pic.twitter.com/sTiOUM4DK0
And I also did some iNaturalist observations with the goal of setting up a project in the area in honor of Karim.
When I went to Sycamore Park this AM to visit the memorial for Karim Majdi Abou Najm I also decided to do a little #naturetherapy for myself and to share. It was pretty dark out so pics aren't great but here are a few: bushtit, house finch, Anna's hummingbird, black phoebe. https://t.co/3Ma9lVOWcT pic.twitter.com/0YAn45mFxQ— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) May 4, 2023
And then later in the day we found out the promising news:
Breaking news: Davis police will announce arrest in series of brutal stabbings this afternoon. https://t.co/DJDY1GblBc— The Sacramento Bee (@sacbee_news) May 4, 2023
And important comment from Nat Pearson
Hope for a Davis community gripped by violence and fear.— Nathan Pearson (@GenomeNathan) May 4, 2023
And a reminder: victim David Breaux, longtime friend to many of us there and beyond, would (and tirelessly did) seek #transformativejustice. https://t.co/tPkRu2ezP6 pic.twitter.com/8Me2iTujqB
I responded to it:
I spent about an hour at / near his corner yesterday thinking about David and trying to channel his compassion https://t.co/nRW3ilCmgG— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) May 4, 2023
And also noted that I had started making iNaturalist observations there too:
And some additional details stated trickling out
And that is how we get to today.
I went by the memorials for Karim and David this AM and the sun was shining, birds were singing and it felt like some sort of renewal. Here are some pics - more later https://t.co/3Ma9lVOWcT pic.twitter.com/db3VrmGb5Y— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) May 5, 2023
I note - I went to see if there was anything in terms of public displays at the site of the third stabbing but did not see anything. The woman who was stabbed is Kimberlee Guillory and I would like to at some point also pay tribute in some way to her.
I made some additional nature observations at each site - going to try to keep doing this regularly as a tribute to both of them - and am posting them to iNaturalist - here is my favorite from from today near Karim's memorial https://t.co/5rDNGhC8ak— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) May 5, 2023
Also see https://t.co/cnZ1YRhGlZ— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) May 5, 2023
And also made some observations from near Compassion Corner / David's memorial such as this nice mushroom https://t.co/MGDRxWjftK— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) May 5, 2023
And this Swainson's hawk was flying overhead https://t.co/GteADTqDuT— Jonathan Eisen (@phylogenomics) May 5, 2023
Basically, I want to make sure that people do not forget Karim and David. They were wonderful people. They were taken from us too soon in a terrible way. But we can get some good out of this. And I will try my best to contribute to that.