The man found stabbed to death late Christmas Eve in an alley behind the downtown Santa Rosa library was identified Thursday as Nicholas Bloom, 22. Police said Bloom, who would have turned 23 on Sunday, was homeless and known to Santa Rosa law enforcement.
A friend of Bloom's, who came to the scene of the killing to pay his respects Thursday, said he was shocked by the young man's death.
"I just can't understand why someone would do this," said Zak McKenna of Santa Rosa, who said he was a childhood friend of Bloom's.
"He didn't always do the right thing, but he was a person I could count on. If anyone was messing with me, he would have stepped in."
The man arrested in connection with Bloom's slaying, Vladimir Sotelo-Urena, is scheduled to be arraigned Friday afternoon. Sotelo-Urena, 26, also was identified as homeless.
Bloom was found Tuesday night after police responded to a 10:45 call about a body in the rear alley of the Central Library on E Street. He was dead when officers arrived and had suffered multiple stab wounds, police said.
An autopsy was underway Thursday, and was expected to continue into Friday, while an investigation around the scene of the stabbing is expected to continue into the weekend, police said.
Police said that after canvassing the area, officers found Sotelo-Urena with blood on his clothing and hands and carrying a bloody knife.
He admitted stabbing Bloom, police said, and was booked into Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of homicide. Police still are investigating the nature of the contact between the men — how long they were together and whether there had been an argument.
"We've talked to a few witnesses, and we're looking for more," Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Eric Goldschlag said.
Police said they had not had any previous contact with Sotelo-Urena, and his name did not appear in Sonoma County court records.
Bloom, however, was known to police, Goldschlag said.
Sonoma County court records show that Bloom had a few minor run-ins with the law: three misdemeanor convictions between September 2010 and July 2013 for vandalism, theft and a misdemeanor hit-and-run.
Most recently, he was charged in a September robbery. A judge dismissed the charges in November, and Bloom was released.
The homicide is the first in central Santa Rosa since Michela Wooldridge, a 24-year-old homeless woman, was stabbed to death and left on a Fourth Street sidewalk near McDonald Avenue on Nov. 1, 2012.
Tuesday's stabbing happened at a time when Santa Rosa has been grappling with how to manage and shelter an influx of homeless residents downtown, some of them displaced from areas near railroad tracks during recent construction and crackdowns.
The library, in particular, has long been a gathering place for homeless people downtown. Police investigators interviewed library employees about Bloom and Sotelo-Urena, showing them photos of the two men.
Reference Librarian Nancy Sampson said she recognized Sotelo-Urena. She'd seen him for the first time just recently, sleeping in the alley behind the library.
The library's interim co-director Jaime Anderson said Bloom's face looked familiar.
They said the homeless population at the library changes regularly and that it's common for people to smoke marijuana, argue or drink outside, but that serious violence is rare.