Pedestrian killed after being run over in downtown Santa Rosa identified

A 45-year-old Santa Rosa man who had recently become homeless was struck and killed by a car near the Santa Rosa Plaza on Thursday night.

Officers responded to a frantic 911 call shortly after 8 p.m. from Alejandra Rangel Valencia of Petaluma, who reported she had just struck a pedestrian, said Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Josh Ludtke. She had turned to exit the mall parking garage via an offramp to Third Street at A Street when she heard a noise leading her to believe she was scraping the curb or that the car had a mechanical issue, Ludtke said.

She never saw the man, Noah Stepanoff, before she hit him.

After stopping the vehicle, she and her husband discovered “there was an individual under the car.”

“She never saw him,” Ludtke said. It was not clear if he had been lying in the street.

First responders used a jack to lift the car, a burgundy Nissan Maxima. Stepanoff was pronounced dead at the scene.

Valencia, who had three passengers riding in her car, is not being charged. She was so distraught that she had difficulty speaking, and required treatment by medical personnel. “She was so upset, she was having a physical reaction,” Ludtke said.

Stepanoff, a native of Petaluma, attended Casa Grande High School and then UC Santa Cruz, where he studied English literature, said his brother, Sean Stepanoff, an artist in Los Angeles.

Noah Stepanoff was passionate about nature photography, frequently posting his images on Instagram. “That was his artistic outlet,” said Sean, who spoke to his brother earlier this week. “He was going to take photography classes at the junior college in June.”

Noah Stepanoff had recently worked as a cashier at the Kmart in Petaluma, according to his LinkedIn page. For the past two months, he’d been using the services offered by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa.

“This is part of the tragedy of homelessness,” said Jennielynn Holmes, the chief program officer for Catholic Charities. Whether it’s health issues or just being in vulnerable situations, she said, the homeless are four times more likely to die prematurely than people with housing.

“That’s why this is an emergency.”

Investigators are seeking witnesses to this incident. Anyone with information is asked to call Officer Mike Mieger at ?707-543-3636.

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