Burglars ransack 24 dorm rooms at SSU while campus was closed during Kincade fire
Three Sonoma State University students were arrested on suspicion of burglarizing at least two dozen unoccupied dorm rooms last week while the campus was closed during the peak of the Kincade fire.
The three 18-year-old men - Daryl Livington Reems, Jose Ricardo Rubio and Lamont Bryan Paxton - are suspected of targeting student housing on the Rohnert Park campus. Twenty of the burglaries took place in dorms within Sauvignon Village, according to the university’s crime log. The remaining four incidents occurred in three freshmen dorms, including Cabernet Village, Zinfandel Village and Verdot Village.
The campus of 9,200 students was vacated Oct. 26 because of the Kincade fire, large-scale evacuations and widespread power shutoffs. Students began reporting the burglaries Saturday, when they returned to their reopened residential halls.
Police arrested the three men on Oct. 29 when they were stopped while driving away from campus, university spokesman Paul Gullixson said. Because the campus was closed, no one was allowed near the dorms without police permission, Gullixson said. Inside the car, the officer found what he believed to be stolen property, which prompted him to arrest the three men.
As students returned to their dorms later that week, campus police received an influx of burglary reports that officers suspect Reems, Rubio and Paxton are responsible for. At least 24 burglaries were reported to campus police from Saturday to Tuesday, according to the university’s crime log.
“We weren’t aware of where the burglaries occurred until some of the students got back to campus,” Gullixson said. “We didn’t know the extent ... of the burglaries that occurred until that point.”
Gullixson said it wasn’t clear why those specific dorms were targeted for the burglaries, but he called the string of burglaries “a crime of opportunity.”
“This was a very disappointing and frustrating situation, given that it occurred in the midst of a regional crisis while our campus was closed and most vulnerable,” Gullixson said.
Reems, Rubio and Paxton were booked into Sonoma County Jail on charges of burglary and possession of stolen property, Gullixson said. They were later released on $10,000 bail, said Sgt. Juan Valencia, spokesman for the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.
All three men have been suspended from the university indefinitely, Gullixson said.
Campus police were able to recover at least some of the stolen items, Gullixson said, though he couldn’t provide details on the number of items or value of the stolen property. The university will attempt to return the property to students soon, he said.
No additional burglaries have been reported since Tuesday, according to the crime log. Gullixson encouraged potential victims or anyone with information about the burglaries to contact the campus police department at 707-664-4444.
Janelle Tyson’s daughter, McKayla, was one of the students who was a victim of burglaries last week. When McKayla arrived back at school over the weekend, she discovered that some of her musical instruments - including a flute and piccolo - had been taken. Tyson estimated the total value to be over $1,500.
McKayla, who is a freshman, is passionate about music and is enrolled in several music classes at the university. But Tyson, who works three jobs to provide for her two daughters, worried that she wouldn’t be able to afford new instruments for McKayla.
“The things that were stolen are her prized possessions,” Tyson said. “I don’t think she deserves this, and I don’t think any of us deserve it.”
Thankfully, Tyson said, some of her friends offered to loan McKayla a flute and piccolo until campus police find her instruments or she’s able to buy new ones. The thefts leave her worried about her daughter’s safety on the campus.
“It makes parents worry a little bit that kids are in an unsafe environment,” Tyson said. “It kind of puts me on edge.”
You can reach Staff Writer Chantelle Lee at 707-521-5337 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @ChantelleHLee.