Police arrest UC Merced student accused of spraying substance on fellow students

Andrew Kuhn/akuhn@mercedsun-star.com

A UC Merced student has been arrested after allegedly spraying other students with a substance, according to university officials.

At about 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, two female students were walking near Mineral King Bridge on campus when they were approached by an individual they didn’t know, according to UC Merced Director of Public Relations Sam Yniguez.

“At some point the individual sprayed them with an unknown substance,” Yniguez said. Law enforcement officials said it appeared to be a pepper spray-like substance.

UC Merced police and medical services responded and the women were treated and released from the scene. Investigators identified 24-year-old UC Merced student Francisco Gavidia-Santana of Merced as a suspect.

At around 9 p.m., authorities located and arrested Gavidia-Santana at his Merced home, according to Yniguez. A motive for the alleged attack is unknown and the incident remains under investigation.

According to Yniguez, none of the students involved in the incident knew each other.

Gavidia-Santana was booked into Merced County Jail on suspicion of felony use of tear gas not in self-defense, according to jail records.

Yniguez said officials want students to know that the campus is safe and this was an isolated incident.

“As far as safety on our campus, that is our top priority here for students and staff,” Yniguez said.

Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to contact the UC Merced Police Department at 209-228-2677.