(SANTA ROSA, Calif.) — One teenager was killed and another was wounded in a stabbing at a California high school on Wednesday, authorities said.
The incident unfolded around 11 a.m. PT at Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa, about 55 miles north of San Francisco. The Santa Rosa Police Department received 911 calls about a fight between students and dispatched officers to the scene. Upon arrival minutes later, the officers found two male students — both juniors — who had been stabbed but were “alert and conscious,” according to Santa Rosa Police Chief John Cregan.
Cregan said the officers determined through an initial investigation that the two juniors had entered a classroom and engaged in a physical altercation with another male student — a freshman. There were 27 students, one teacher and three teacher’s aides inside the classroom at the time. As an initial fight broke out, the teacher and aides intervened. But moments later, the fight continued and that’s when the freshman allegedly pulled out a knife, stabbing the two juniors, according to Cregan.
Both juniors then left the classroom to assess their injuries and seek help from the school nurse before police arrived on scene. The officers learned that the 15-year-old suspect, whose name was not released, had fled the school after the incident, Cregan said.
One of the victims appeared to have sustained three stab wounds to his upper body, while the other had one stab wound to his left hand. Officers provided initial medical aid before both students were transported to a local hospital. One of them — a 16-year-old boy — later died at the hospital, while the other was treated and is expected to survive, according to Cregan. The victims’ identities have not yet been released.
With the help of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, police searched the area for the suspect. Authorities eventually received a tip from witnesses that the teen was hiding in a creek behind Saint Eugene’s Cathedral School.
“Our officers scoured that area and were able to locate a 15-year-old juvenile who was hiding in the creek bed there, who was laying down on his stomach, trying to conceal himself,” Cregan said during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. “Officers slowed down, they used restraint, they didn’t use any force and they were safely able to take this young man into custody.”
The suspect did not have any weapons in his possession when he was arrested. Police continue to look for the knife that was allegedly used in the assault, according to Cregan, who described the weapon as a folding knife with a black handle and an approximately 4- to 5-inch blade.
Cregan said it was unclear what had caused the suspect to bring the knife to school that day and there was also no evidence to suggest that the two victims were armed during the fight. The incident and a potential motive remains under investigation.
“It’s very early in the investigation, but it appears there had been some previous altercations between these students,” the police chief told reporters. “That’ll be one of the things that our investigators are looking into and we’re looking for students that may have information about that, to come forward to the Santa Rosa Police Department. Another thing that we’re seeking is any videos that students may have recorded of this incident.”
During Wednesday’s press conference, a teenage girl in the crowd who identified herself as a Montgomery High School senior spoke up to voice her frustration. She alleged that school officials “didn’t do anything” about the previous problems between the students.
“It’s their job to keep us safe,” she said. “It’s just disappointing. It really is.”
There are currently no metal detectors at Montgomery High School nor any school within the district, according to Santa Rosa City Schools Superintendent Anna Trunnell.
“We do talk regularly to our students about safety and about caring for each other on campus. But we do not have anything that detects those kinds of weapons on campus right now,” Trunnell said during the press conference. “We are going to be assessing how we approach supporting our students and making sure that they know that this is a safe place, and we will be examining how exactly we are going to do that.”
“This is truly a sad day,” she added. “The tragedy that happened here today is heartbreaking.”
The Santa Rosa Police Department does not currently have a school resource officer stationed at Montgomery High School nor any Santa Rosa school — a decision that the police chief said was made by the Santa Rosa City Schools Board of Education.
“As chief, it’s something that I’ve advocated for us to return to, but we can’t do that without the support of your Santa Rosa school board,” Cregan said.
“We work very closely with the school here and will be looking at how we can partner in some of the school safety to ensure that all students in Santa Rosa are able to come to school in a safe environment,” he added. “My daughter is a Santa Rosa school student and goes to a Santa Rosa school, and I care personally about making sure that we have a safe school campus.”
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