Pocketknife lands Santa Rosa man on probation for fatal SSU stabbing back in jail

A Santa Rosa man sentenced to three years' probation in the fatal stabbing of an intruder at a Sonoma State University dorm room last year is in custody again for violating the terms of his release.

Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Robert LaForge found Tyler Bratton, 21, violated his probation when Santa Rosa police discovered he was carrying a pocketknife earlier this year, court records show.

An officer spotted a knife with a 4-inch blade under Bratton on the seat during a Feb. 10 traffic stop near City Hall, Santa Rosa Police Sgt. David Linscomb said. Bratton, who was arrested that same day, was a passenger in the car.

“The knife was in the car, on the seat,” Linscomb said.

Bratton faces up to four years and eight months in jail, minus time he's already served behind bars, at a sentencing hearing next month, Sonoma County Assistant District Attorney William Brockley said Tuesday.

The terms of his probation bar Bratton from carrying any weapons and require him to follow all laws, Brockley said.

Bratton has remained in jail without the possibility of bail since his latest arrest.

Bratton's return to jail came less than a year after local authorities named him as the suspect in the fatal stabbing of Steven John Garcia, 26, at a SSU apartment-style dorm on May 13, 2018.

In September, Bratton pleaded no contest to felony involuntary manslaughter and possessing a knife on a school campus. He said he acted in self-defense after Garcia forced himself into the dorm room of university student Riley O'Rourke.

O'Rourke testified Bratton was at the dorm to protect her from Garcia and a 21-year-old woman whom she had argued with at a party a day earlier.

Bratton, who braced himself against the door to prevent the pair from entering O'Rourke's room, pulled out a knife after Garcia made it inside and began choking him, O'Rourke said in court.

LaForge sentenced Bratton to three years' probation in the stabbing in October, as part of a plea deal reached with prosecutors.

Bratton's sentencing for the probation violation is scheduled for June 19.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or On Twitter @nashellytweets

EDITOR'S NOTE: Tyler Bratton made no admission of guilt during a probation violation hearing. This story has been revised to remove incorrect information provided by the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office.

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