Santa Rosa student, 16, fatally stabbed in Montgomery High School classroom; 2nd student injured
The 15-year-old Montgomery High School freshman was in art class Wednesday morning, just 11 minutes after 11 a.m.
In a flash, two juniors at the Santa Rosa school burst into the classroom and began fighting with the boy.
The teacher and three staff members rushed to stop the fight, which erupted in front of 27 other students. Moments later, the fight resumed and the freshman retaliated, pulling out a folding knife with a 4- to 5-inch blade, police said.
As students watched in horror, one of the older students, 16, was stabbed in the upper body three times. He died after initially being treated on the campus and taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, police said.
The other upperclassman, also 16, was stabbed in his left hand and also was taken to Memorial Hospital.
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The 15-year-old boy who police said wielded the knife raced from the classroom and was found 40 minutes later about a mile north of campus. He was taken into custody without incident.
“This is truly a sad day,” Santa Rosa City Schools Superintendent Anna Trunnell said in an afternoon news conference about four hours after the incident. Santa Rosa Police Chief John Cregan was at her side.
“The tragedy that happened here today is heartbreaking,” Trunnell said.
Later Wednesday evening, Principal Adam Paulson sent a message to parents, students and the school community announcing the campus would remain closed Thursday. He called the outbreak of violence “the darkest day anyone can remember at Montgomery High.”
Police late Wednesday identified the deceased victim as Jayden Jess Pienta, 16, of Santa Rosa.
The fatal stabbing was the first on-campus slaying of a Sonoma County student in at least a generation.
Cregan, the Santa Rosa police chief, said the attack unfolded in quick succession inside the full art classroom on Santa Rosa’s second oldest high school campus, home to about 1,700 students.
It began shortly before an 11:11 a.m. 911 call to police, when the two older students barged into the classroom to confront the 15-year-old boy, he said.
Santa Rosa officers were on scene within four minutes of the 911 call, Cregan said. The involved students had some history of previous altercations, he said.
The campus was placed on lockdown, along with eight other schools in the vicinity.
The students injured in the attack made their way to the school’s front office, Cregan said, where a school nurse “engaged” with them.
“Both the students were alert and conscious and were providing initial statements,” Cregan said. “Our medical staff arrived here on the scene and quickly started treating the students and they were transported to a local hospital.”
For the more badly injured boy, the initial medical treatment involved a “chest seal,” Cregan said. He did not say how much time elapsed before he was taken to the hospital.
Tips from witnesses led to the suspect being located about 11:51 p.m. in the area of Santa Rosa Creek behind St. Eugene Cathedral School at the corner of Montgomery Drive and Farmers Lane.
“Our officers scoured that area and were able to locate a 15-year-old juvenile who was hiding in the creek bed there, who was laying down on his stomach, trying to conceal himself,” he said.
The officers “were safely able to take this young man into custody,” Cregan said.
No knife was found in his possession or in the vicinity, he said, adding that officers are still searching for the weapon. The student was arrested on suspicion of homicide, attempted homicide, bringing a weapon on campus and assault on a school campus.
His name was withheld because he is a minor.
Santa Rosa police Sgt. Christopher Mahurin, the department spokesperson, said the altercations happened in the same room within a short amount of time. He said he did not know who instigated the ensuing fight after the first was broken up.
Santa Rosa’s middle and high schools do not have campus-based officers following a controversial decision by the district school board in 2020 not to renew the suspended Santa Rosa police program.
Asked about other measures in place at Montgomery and districtwide, Trunnell, the district chief said: “We don't have any metal detectors here or at any of our schools. We do talk regularly to our students about safety and caring for each other on campus."
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