Terrible Night for a Visiting Scholar at UC Davis

It didn't appear that anything was wrong.

He hid it well.

"It's okay," he said quietly. "I'm okay."

But what happened to him wasn't okay then, and it isn't okay now.

On Saturday afternoon, Sept. 21, we greeted Syed Fahad Shah, a visiting scholar at the Bohart Museum of Entomology, as he cut circles lettered with "I ate a bug at the Bohart Museum." He and doctoral student Charlotte Herbert Alberts were helping visitors make buttons during the Bohart Museum open house on entomophagy.

When the open house ended, Bohart Museum education and outreach coordinator Tabatha Yang asked me: "Did you hear  what happened to Shah last night?" I had not.

"He got robbed at gunpoint when he was walking home last night on Russell Boulevard," she said.

It happened the previous night (Friday night, Sept. 20). A robber, aided by an accomplice, stole the entomologist's wallet containing his rent money and credit cards, his newly purchased laptop, and an external hard drive containing scientific data.

Shah, a lecturer in the Department of Entomology, University of Agriculture, Peshawar, Pakistan, was heading home to his apartment after a long day working in the lab. He was without a bike Friday (it had a flat tire).

As he walked along Russell Boulevard, near Lake Boulevard, west of Highway 113,  he noticed a car, its emergency lights flashing, parked on the other side of the road (north).

“I was looking at the car and thought that maybe they have some kind of problem with the car,” Shaw related.  As he continued walking home, a man leaped from behind a tree trunk, pointed his gun at him and cocked it “to let me know it was real."

The suspect, described as about six-feet tall, between 20 and 30 years old, with curly hair and a dark bandanna covering his face, demanded, one by one, his wallet, his cell phone and then his backpack. The culprit then heaved Shah's cell phone into the field, and bolted to the car where his accomplice, the driver, awaited. The car headed west.

Shah described the car as a sedan, “like a Corolla,” and “dark in in color with rectangular back lights.” He retrieved his phone and quickly dialed the police. “The police arrived within five minutes and recorded my statement,” he said.  

His black Armour Hustle backpack contained a laptop computer delivered to him only Monday, Sept. 9 at the Bohart Museum. His most valuable possession, however, was an external hard drive containing all his research data and lectures. It is a Seagate 1 terabyte hard drive.

Shah had not yet backed up the contents on the hard drive. Ironically, while enroute to the United States for his May 15-Oct. 30 research sabbatical on agriculturally important insects, someone stole his laptop at the Dubai airport. “But I was happy that I had the data backed up on my external hard drive, but this time I have no backup,” he said. “I only wish for my hard drive back.”

At UC Davis, Shah is studying parasitoid wasps in the family Pteromalidae under the guidance of Bohart senior museum scientist Steve Heydon.

In an announcement to the Department of Entomology and Nematology, Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology, reported that Shah “filed a police report but that probably won't help get his equipment back. The data is irreplaceable but we hope to help him replace the things stolen, so we have started a GoFundMe page to raise the needed fund."

The GoFundMe account, seeking $2000, is at https://bit.ly/2ldZ3ZF. For more information, contact the Bohart Museum at (530) 752-0493 or Lynn Kimsey at lskimsey@ucdavis.edu or Tabatha Yang at tabyang@ucdavis.edu.

Here's hoping that we can help Shaw recoup his losses, and maybe, just maybe, a miracle will occur and someone will find and return his external hard drive. "I only wish for my hard drive back."