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Chemistry Teacher Tied to Prank : Evacuation: An assistant professor caused the incident in an attempt to get even with seniors who played a trick on him, said a Cal State Fullerton official who declined to be identified.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Cal State Fullerton assistant chemistry professor was responsible for a prank gone awry May 28 that released toxic fumes in a restroom and required the evacuation of a building during final exams, a university official who requested anonymity said Wednesday.

Wayne Taylor, 44, had hidden pellets of nitrogen triiodide under toilet seats on the fifth floor of Miles D. McCarthy Hall as a way of getting back at some seniors who had played a prank on him, the official said.

The president’s office declined to say for the record that Taylor was the one who staged the prank because the case is being treated as a personnel, not a criminal, issue, said Judith Anderson, executive assistant to the president.

“We evaluated the incident and it lacked specific criminal intent,” Campus Police Chief Bill Huffman said.

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No one was arrested for the prank, he said.

The pellets placed under toilet seats in a men’s bathroom and a women’s bathroom were meant to explode with a pop when someone sat down, officials said.

But at 5:17 a.m. May 28, custodians found the toxic substance. When the janitors tried to wash the pellets off, they released fumes that made them sick, Huffman said.

Investigators thought they had a gas leak at first, but several hours later realized the pellets were to blame, and evacuated the building.

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Students in the middle of 7 a.m. exams at McCarthy Hall, the largest building on campus, filed outside to complete their tests on the grassy quadrangle and in the football stadium. Twenty-five exams that had been scheduled for 9 a.m. were relocated to other parts of campus.

Three custodians and a campus security officer were treated at a hospital for exposure to the gas and released. No students were hurt.

University officials are reviewing the incident to decide whether to take disciplinary action, Anderson said.

“Disciplinary sanctions might range from a reprimanding letter to the possibility of dismissal,” she said.

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Anaheim’s hazardous materials unit responded to the incident and charged the university about $10,000 for its services. Anderson said it is not known whether Cal State Fullerton will try to collect the money from the alleged prankster.

Taylor did not return phone calls Wednesday.


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