Santa Rosa police: Victim, suspect in Ridgway High School shooting had ongoing rival gang dispute
An ongoing dispute between two Ridgway High School students with ties to rival street gangs culminated Tuesday morning when one shot the other in front of the Santa Rosa campus and then slipped into a classroom while it was under lockdown, police said.
Santa Rosa Police Capt. John Cregan said Wednesday detectives reached that conclusion after dozens of interviews with Ridgway students, some of whom witnessed the gunfire on Ridgway Avenue near Morgan Street just before 9 a.m., and from interviews with the victim and 17-year-old suspect arrested Tuesday in a classroom on suspicion of attempted murder.
The suspect, who authorities refused to identify because he is a minor, remained in custody at Sonoma County’s juvenile hall on Wednesday and is ineligible for release on bail. The District Attorney’s Office typically has 48 hours after a suspect is in custody to file charges.
The victim, a 16-year-old boy shot twice in his upper body, was recovering at home and in stable condition Wednesday after being released from the hospital the night before, Cregan said. He was rushed to the hospital by a friend after the shooting.
Cregan would not say which Sonoma County gangs the teens had ties to because he said the information would only “glorify the two gangs.” He declined to reveal whether the teens have criminal records because they are minors.
“There’s been several face-to-face confrontations out in the community that led up to this,” Cregan said. “This has been an ongoing dispute that has been going on in the last few weeks.”
The details released by police Wednesday came as officers pieced together information about how and why the gunfire erupted at the edge of the Santa Rosa campus, police said. It was the first instance in Sonoma County history in which a student shot a classmate at or near a Sonoma County school campus, multiple law enforcement officials said.
Police think the handgun used in the shooting was a stolen .32-caliber Ruger revolver, which the suspect stashed in a backpack that he put in a car that left the scene after the shooting, Cregan said.
A separate Ridgway student was identified as the driver of the vehicle, though detectives were still determining whether the teen knew the gun was in the backpack and whether he intended to hide it from police, Cregan said. He was not named.
Officers found the gun Tuesday night in bushes on Brittain Lane, off of West Third Street in Santa Rosa, Cregan said, noting it was dumped there by an unknown person.
The revolver was reported stolen to authorities by a Rincon Valley resident in late June 2016 in the aftermath of a residential burglary, Cregan said.
“A resident came home and found that several firearms had been stolen and filed a police report,” Cregan said.
Cregan would not say how officers tracked the gun to the location. It was found by officers with two spent cartridges that had been fired, which was consistent with evidence collected about the shooting, he said.
The gunfire triggered a lockdown for thousands of high school and college students across three adjacent campuses Tuesday morning as police officers and SWAT personnel combed the area for the shooter and the weapon.
Surveillance video taken from the school shows the shooter, who was standing near a wooden sign at the front of the school, get into a brief shouting match with the victim, Cregan said. Police suspect both were coming onto campus for the day when the shots were fired, he said.
“Second period was starting and it was a rush of students that were getting onto campus and they were part of the group,” Cregan said. “(The shooting) appears to be a spontaneous event and a targeted act of violence from the suspect.”
The video, paired with witness statements, helped officers track the suspect to the right classroom and take him into custody. The lockdown at the three campuses was lifted after about 2½ hours.
The video footage was taken from cameras that were installed over the summer and paid for with money from a pair of 2014 ballot measures to fund technological upgrades at Santa Rosa schools, said district spokeswoman Beth Berk.
The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office declined to provide information about how prosecutors would proceed with the case, with office spokeswoman Joan Croft saying she could not speak about the matter because it involved a juvenile. She did however point to a state law that details when prosecutors can attempt to try juveniles as adults, including in cases in which the suspect is charged with serious felony crimes such as attempted murder.
Prosecutors may pursue an additional charge of possession of a stolen firearm against the 17-year-old student, Cregan said.
Additionally, students involved in Tuesday’s shooting face disciplinary actions at school, Berk said.
Counseling for students and staff was available at both Ridgway High and Santa Rosa High on Wednesday, Santa Rosa City Schools spokeswoman Beth Berk said. Extra officers were asked to patrol the area of the high schools starting Wednesday morning, Cregan said.
School district officials investigated a parent’s claim that a door in Santa Rosa High School did not lock properly during Tuesday’s lockdown, but the teacher in the classroom said the door was locked, Berk said.
A relative of the 17-year-old student arrested in the shooting declined an interview on Wednesday.
You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Press Democrat
Who calls the North Bay home and how do their backgrounds, socioeconomic status and other factors shape their experiences? What cultures, traditions and religions are celebrated where we live? These are the questions that drive me as I cover diversity, equity and inclusion in Sonoma County and beyond.