Arthur Rosenbaum, harassed UCLA eye researcher who helped 10,000 children, has died

By Max Taves

Oft-threatened UCLA eye doctor and researcher Arthur Rosenbaum has died.

Over his 36-year career the ophthalmologist treated 10,000 children for strabismus, or eye misalignment, using techniques he pioneered, in part, from experimenting with animals.

Botox inserted into the eyes of monkeys, he found, controlled the eye's nerves, fixing double vision and, also, facial spastic disorders.

For his work, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Marshall M. Parks Medal from the Children's Eye Foundation. But for animal-rights extremists, he might as well have been Pol Pot.

Although only one of his projects involved animal experimentation, the doctor became enemy number one for a bizarre, violent campaign to terrorize, if not outright kill, UCLA's animal researchers.

In fact, in the four years since animal-rights extremists started targeting UCLA faculty, perhaps no one was harassed quite like Rosenbaum, according to never-before-published court records acquired by L.A. Weekly and described below.

As the Weekly reported here, activists were banned by the courts from terrorizing him.

Three years ago this summer, a firebomb was planted and lit behind his car's tire outside of his home, where activists had followed him.

A bomb squad responded before it detonated.

A couple of days later a group calling itself the Animal Liberation Brigade took credit for the failed attack and threatened further action.

Via anonymous communiqué, the Brigade warned that the doctor needed to "watch (his) back because the next time (he was) ... in the operation room or walking to (his) office, (he) just might be facing injections into (his) eyes."

Days later, protesters wearing masks and black bandanas showed up at his home, taunting him about the bomb planted under his car and yelling: "We know where you live, where you sleep, your phone number, and your address!"

The next month, July of 2007, Rosenbaum's wife received a package addressed to her containing razor blades, animal fur and oil.

A letter inside warned her to persuade him to stop his research or else "what he does to the animals we will do to you."

This time a group called the Animal Liberation Front took credit.

Over the next few months, more anonymous threats followed. Another communiqué warned, "We are only just getting started. This action is a mere token when compared to the other things we can and will do."

And more masked protesters arrived to chant threats outside of his home -- all while besmirching him to the neighbors. A website called named him as a "target" and listed his home address, telephone number and picture.

To protect himself, the eye doctor hired around-the-clock security guards and started carrying canisters of Mace.

Before the end of that year, Rosenbaum was awakened two times in the night by anonymous callers telling him he had 30 minutes before a bomb exploded in his backyard.

Those were hoaxes, but as the Weekly reported, police were continually playing catch-up.

If it was possible, things got even weirder for Rosenbaum by the end of 2007.

A quarter after midnight that December, Rosenbaum's wife woke up to a hearse from Pierce Bros Mortuary outside her house. The driver and attendant were there to collect the "body" of her husband.

In court documents, Rosenbaum made clear how much these threats had rattled him and his wife. "Both my wife and I have lost any sense of safety we once had," said Rosenbaum.

"I am afraid when walking out in public and I am angry that I have been made to feel this way. I have great trouble sleeping at night. I get up at least once a night to check on my house.

"Dealing with this has taken an enormous toll on my time. I have to deal with neighbors whoare upset at the disruptive protests and 'home visits.'

"I've had to spend considerable amounts of time speaking to the police, to the FBI, to attorneys, and others, and this impacts my work at UCLA with critically ill children."

Rosenbaum died last month. His funeral was held at the end of last month in St. Louis, Missouri.

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