Terminally ill cancer patient planned ‘massacre’ of Bay Area oncologists, police say
The police warnings were brief and bone-chilling: “There’s an armed man intent on coming to your home or place of business to kill you.”
A group of Bay Area oncologists sought to protect themselves recently when authorities told them that a terminally ill cancer patient had armed himself and appeared intent on exacting revenge.
“He was disgruntled; he clearly bore some substantial animosity,” Palo Alto Police Lt. James Reifschneider said of Yue Chen.
Though Chen wasn’t able to execute his alleged plan, authorities are confident he was serious about following through on it.
When Chen was found just hours after the warnings went out May 31, he was about 20 miles outside Palo Alto on southbound Highway 101. Police found a white rubber mask, a notebook with names, addresses and directions to the homes of several doctors and two loaded guns inside his car, court documents show.
A note titled “Why do I kill” was found. It justified the act of revenge and the consequences of treating a person “like an animal,” court documents show.
According to Santa Clara County prosecutors, Chen’s family had recently told him that he was terminally ill with Stage 4 cancer. He didn’t have long to live.
So Chen sought to find the oncologists who had treated him the previous year and kill them, police said.
In custody, Chen told investigators he believed that doctors had treated him like a tool for experimentation, or a “laboratory monkey,” according to court documents. He said he believed doctors had damaged his spine so they could train new students, court documents show. Originally from China, Chen told police that he lived in New York for 12 years before moving to California, documents show.
In his search for doctors, Chen had driven to a hospital in San Francisco but left without hurting anyone, according to a police report. He also tried another location where he thought one of his doctors lived, documents show.
But none of that was known earlier that morning on May 31, when Chen’s family had just reported him missing. It wasn’t until Visalia police arrived at the home and found evidence of the plot that they alerted people in the Bay Area. Inside Chen’s home, investigating officers found a typed note that said he “had to kill these doctors today because they are evil,” court documents show.
His computer’s Internet search history revealed some of the people and places he allegedly intended to target, and a search of his home revealed that two handguns registered to his name with 16- and 32-round high-capacity magazines were gone, authorities said.
“This is a man with nothing to lose and wants to take people with him,” said Charles Huang, Santa Clara County deputy district attorney.
Visalia police notified the California Highway Patrol and police in Palo Alto, San Francisco and surrounding communities where Chen’s doctors lived and worked, officials said. Police told them to be on the lookout for him — he was driving a rented red 2017 Nissan Rogue, Visalia Police Sgt. Damon Maurice said.
CHP officers found him about 7:45 p.m. May 31, about 20 minutes outside of Palo Alto and 150 miles from his home, police said.
Chen was arrested without incident and taken to the hospital. From there he was transported to Santa Clara County jail, where records show he is being held without bail.
On Friday, he was charged with three counts of premeditated attempted murder. There was evidence at his home and in the car that Chen had planned to target more than three doctors, but the evidence justifies charging him with plans to kill three people only, Huang said.
“Police were able to avert a massacre of some of the top oncologists in the world,” the prosecutor added.
If convicted, Chen could face life in prison with the possibility of parole in 21 years, Huang said.
At his arraignment Friday, Chen’s defense attorney argued that due to his condition, Chen should be placed in hospice care rather than held in jail. The judge rejected the motion.
Chen’s arraignment was continued to June 28. His defense attorney was not immediately available for comment.
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