DURHAM — Police on Tuesday arrested a University of New Hampshire graduate student on felony charges related to the alleged misuse of hazardous chemicals stemming from an incident at his home 10 days earlier. Authorities say they do not believe the incident poses any threat to the general public with a prosecutor saying he suspects the suspect was a "hobbyist."
Police said Emad Mustafa, 29, of 35 Oyster River Road, had sought medical help May 13 for a possible exposure to a toxic chemical. The response involved the Durham Police Department, Durham Fire Department and McGregor Memorial EMS. Mustafa was transported to Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover, where he was subsequently treated and released on the same day.
On Tuesday, May 23, a search warrant was executed at Mustafa's residence that included the Seacoast Technical Assistance Response Team (START) under the direction of the Strafford County Attorney’s Office. Durham police and fire departments, UNH police, New Hampshire State Police and federal partners were also involved, police said.
Assistant Strafford County Attorney Joachim Barth said the chemicals Mustafa allegedly had were mercury, dimethyl sulphate, sodium azide and sodium metal.
He said authorities believe it is an isolated incident and there is no danger to the public.
"I suspect he was a hobbyist," said Barth. "These chemicals are highly reactive so I am not surprised at the result." Barth said Mustafa attempted to throw away the chemical mixture in a public dumpster.
"We have no reason to believe that the chemicals came from the university," Barth said. "We have probable cause to believe that he handled and mixed hazardous chemicals which, in the manner he used them, were capable of causing serious bodily injury. We have probable cause to believe that he disposed of hazardous materials contrary to statutory requirements."
Durham police said the health and safety of the community was the priority during this investigation and at no time was there a safety concern for the community or surrounding neighbors. The hazardous material was identified and contained during the operation, police said.
Mustafa was released on personal recognizance bail.
Mustafa was charged with reckless conduct with a deadly weapon and improper disposal of hazardous materials. Both charges are Class B felonies punishable by a maximum of seven years in prison.
START is a 40-member regional hazardous materials team led by the Seacoast Chief Fire Officers Mutual Aid District. The Southeastern New Hampshire Hazardous Material Mutual Aid District was called to assist START, police said.
Mustafa is a UNH Ph.D. student, police said. He is scheduled for arraignment June 22 in Strafford County Superior Court.
The identity of Mustafa's attorney was not immediately known. Attempts are being made to reach Mustafa's representation to comment for this story.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
This article originally appeared on Fosters Daily Democrat: Durham NH man charged in hazmat incident at his home