Several students heard yelling. They then saw a 19-year-old man spill out of a second-floor Sonoma State University apartment with a knife and blood on his hands.
What should have been a quiet Sunday evening of study before a week of final exams turned into a traumatic night filled with anxiety and confusion.
A fight between two young men left one dead and the other in jail, with many unanswered questions Monday about the chain of events that led to the confrontation.
Tyler J. Bratton, 19, of Santa Rosa was held without bail Monday in Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of murder.
Police withheld the name of the victim, a 26‑year‑old Sonoma County man, pending notification of his family.
Neither man was a student at SSU, said Petaluma police Lt. Tim Lyons, whose agency is leading the investigation. He said the two men knew each other but would not disclose the nature of their relationship, and were on campus visiting friends when the fight broke out.
Lyons said both men knew a woman who lived in the apartment, located in Sauvignon Village, a freshman housing complex on the southwest end of the campus. During a press conference Monday, he deflected questions about whether the stabbing was gang- or drug-related.
SSU freshman Jordyn Day, 18, was walking back to her dorm from the library when she found Bratton, his hands were covered in blood, sitting behind the stucco apartment building with a pocketknife next to him. He was talking on the phone while a hysterical, blonde woman was standing next to him.
“I was like ‘oh, are you ok?’ And he said ‘no,’ ” Day said Monday.
“It was weird because I walked into the situation of there’s a knife,” Day said. “You don’t immediately think someone just stabbed someone.”
It’s the second homicide in two years to rattle the Rohnert Park university, where the body of Kirk Kimberly was found by a landscaper in a shallow grave in a wooded area on the edge of campus in late 2016. The 18-year-old Cotati man had been stabbed multiple times.
On Monday during a press conference, Sonoma State University President Judy Sakaki expressed sorrow for the death and emphasized that the school was open and finals were underway.
“All of us at Sonoma State are shocked and saddened by this tragic event. Our hearts go out to all who’ve been impacted,” Sakaki said. “Our focus today will be continuing to make sure the needs of our students and our campus community are met.”
Grief counselors were available to staff and students as all of the dorms reopened, except the apartment where the stabbing occurred.
“Campus life is going on as usual,” SSU spokesman Paul Gullixson said.
Students said they heard the fight and saw the suspect leave the apartment.
Freshman Sarah O., who declined to give her full name out of fear, was in the apartment below when she heard a commotion.
“I was home alone and I heard something loud,” the 19-year-old woman said. “I thought maybe someone was getting robbed so I ran into my room to hide.”
She said the fight only lasted a few minutes, starting with banging on the floor from a scuffle, yelling and finally footsteps racing toward the door. It would be hours before she’d learn someone died upstairs.