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1 dead after Sonoma State stabbing, suspect arrested

  • The Sauvignon Village dormitories at Sonoma State where the deadly Sunday stabbing of a Santa Rosa man took place. Robert Grant

By: Katherine Minkiewicz
May 18, 2018

A 26-year-old Sonoma County man is dead after a fight escalated to a violent stabbing on the Sonoma State University campus at the Sauvignon Village freshmen dorm Sunday evening where the suspect, 19-year-old Tyler J. Bratton, was later arrested and booked into Sonoma County Jail. 

The stabbing occurred just before 6 p.m. at the Alicante Building at the Redwood Circle Drive dorm and authorities are now saying that both victim and suspect were not Sonoma State students. The victim was identified as a Santa Rosa man, Steven John Garcia, by the Sonoma County Coroners’ Office Tuesday afternoon. Garcia was yet to be identified on Monday due to pending family notification of the incident.  

Sonoma State University police initially responded to the scene along with aid from the Cotati Police Department and the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety. 

The incident is said to have occurred inside the two-story building, where Garcia was found in the upstairs unit bedroom and pronounced dead at the scene at 6:06 p.m.

According to Lt. Tim Lyons of the Petaluma Police Department, the lead investigating unit, the two men were visiting friends on campus and had some sort of prior dispute which unfortunately, took a violent turn for the worse.

No students were harmed in the incident. 

“We do not know as yet the motive in this case, but we can say that these individuals were acquaintances who were involved in some kind of dispute and altercation,” Lyons said at a press conference held at Sonoma State Monday morning. “At no point were other students at risk, but we are asking any individuals who may have witnessed something to contact the Petaluma Police Department.”

Police were seen Sunday evening sectioning off areas near where the stabbing occurred with neon-yellow police tape and some students weren’t allowed back into their dorms as police conducted their investigation.

Lyons said that investigators found a knife at the scene that they believe is related to the incident. Also recovered at the scene were a backpack and books.

“We think this wasn’t a random act. Everybody involved knew each other,” Lyons said.

Police later found Bratton near the area where the incident occurred and the suspect was cooperative with police during the arrest and is now being held without bail.

Sauvignon Village residents were given accommodations off-campus Sunday evening while the Alicante Building remained closed for the investigation.

“Last night we were able to make hotel rooms and dinner available for all students who were not able to get back into their residence halls because of the police investigation,” said Sonoma State President, Judy K. Sakaki. “The care and safety of our students are our top priority. And our focus today will be continuing to make sure we meet the needs of our students and campus community.”

Students were able to return to their dorms Monday morning and all residential units remain open, except for the unit where the stabbing took place, according to Sakaki.

Caleb Cardoso, 18, who lives in the Beaujolis Village dorm said while he usually feels safe on campus the incident does add weight to student’s already stressed minds with final exams in full swing.

“This is something extra that you have to think about so it is definitely bad timing at this critical point of the year… nothing this severe (has happened),” Cardoso said.

Addie Molina, a business major said she too generally feels safe in her Tuscany Village dorm, but finding out about the homicide was quite surprising.

“I generally do feel safe. It is shocking though to hear about it and I know a lot of rumors have been going around,” Molina said.

In a tweet last evening Sonoma State stated that finals will proceed as scheduled. However, if students were impacted in any way by the incident and do not feel prepared to take their exams accommodations can be made.

“Students who have been impacted by Sunday’s events and feel unable or unprepared to take a final exam, submit a final assignment, or attend class should contact his or her instructors as soon as possible to request an accommodation. Students who cannot access their instructors’ contact information should email: with your name, course title, time and day of the class, faculty name and section number (if known) so this information can be relayed to the appropriate instructor,” the tweet states.

The campuses’ NomaCares Center was open Monday and Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the university library for counselling and psychological services.

Petaluma Police asks if anyone has any information on the case or was a witness to please call (707) 778-4372 and ask for Detective John Silva. 

“Our hearts go out to all of those who have been impacted… and all of us are shocked and saddened by this tragic event,” Sakaki said. “I’m grateful for our leadership team and how our campus has come together to ensure our students are safe, housed and cared for”.   

The university will continue to staff extra police officers throughout campus and if anyone would like to request a campus escort students are encouraged to contact university police at (707) 664-4444.