School district denied Santa Rosa police permission to arrest assault suspects on Elsie Allen campus

District Superintendent Anna Trunnell rebuffed detectives’ attempts to gain access to, and information about, four juvenile suspects, police said.|

In the latest twist in the debate over the presence of police on Santa Rosa City Schools campuses, detectives were turned away from Elsie Allen High School as they prepared to arrest four juvenile suspects in a robbery and stabbing that was believed to be gang related.

Sgt. Patricia Seffens, a police spokesperson, said Elsie Allen Principal Gabriel Albavera was instructed by Santa Rosa City Schools Superintendent Anna Trunnell on Jan. 16 to deny detectives access to the students suspected in the attack.

In an email to The Press Democrat on Friday, Trunnell said the situation was more nuanced.

“This was not a decision to not work with the police,” she said. “Historically, we have cooperated with SRPD. On this occasion, the district was asked to assist with acquiring students from their classrooms to be arrested for an incident that happened outside of school hours and off campus.”

All four suspects were arrested the following morning as they left their residences to go to school. One of them, a 16-year-old who was confirmed by police to be an Elsie Allen student, was carrying a backpack containing a disassembled firearm.

After obtaining a warrant to search his home, police discovered additional firearm components and a 3-D printer they suspect he was using to manufacture guns.

Seffens said police got “no indication” the student intended to use the gun at school.

Detectives with the department’s Gang Crimes Team visited Elsie Allen to inquire about four suspects in the Jan. 11 stabbing and beating of the 41-year-old man in the Bellevue Ranch neighborhood, a mile from the school.

The detectives asked if the four students had been attending class, intending to return to school the following morning, said Seffens.

They were rebuffed in their attempts to get information about the students.

“The principal was instructed by Superintendent Anna Trunnell to deny our detectives access to the students and any information that detectives requested,” according to Seffens.

In an interview Friday, Elsie Allen principal Albavera confirmed that police were present on campus Jan. 16. He said the conversation with detectives on how to arrest the juvenile suspects was brief.

Albavera said he followed instructions by Trunnell and told police that the students could not be arrested on campus.

He pointed out that police had visited the school once before, on the day of the assault. Seeking the principal’s help in identifying the assailants, police showed Albavera and his colleagues surveillance video of the attack, in which the victim was stabbed 8 to 10 times.

“We gave them names,” Albavera said. “Well, they actually already had the names, and we just kind of verified.”

Among residents coming to the aid of the victim was a nurse, who applied pressure to his wounds until paramedics arrived. The victim was transported to a nearby hospital, treated for his injuries and later released.

On Wednesday, Jan. 24, four more teens were arrested in connection with the incident, bringing to 10 the number of individuals taken into custody for the attack.

All 10 were confirmed by police to be gang-affiliated. The four most recently arrested were described as two 15-year-old boys, a 17-year-old boy and an adult, 18-year-old Anthony Hernandez of Santa Rosa, police said.

All were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, robbery and participating in a street gang.

Security video footage collected by detectives showed at least four of the suspects running from the crime scene to the Elsie Allen campus immediately after the stabbing, then fleeing in a vehicle.

The attack on the bicyclist occurred a month after the Santa Rosa City Schools board of trustees voted in favor of a pilot program that will bring police officers back to some campuses.

In June 2020, board members had voted unanimously to suspend the district’s partnership with the police department — specifically the School Resource Officer program, which for years had stationed an officer at each of the district’s five high schools and feeder middle schools.

Critics contend that having uniformed and armed police on campus can trigger anxiety among students, especially students of color, who are historically disciplined at greater rates than their white peers.

The move to disband the SRO program came amid local, national and global civil rights protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

The board’s 5-2 vote in December 2023 in favor of a pilot program to reintroduce school resource officers came in the wake of a series of campus lockdowns and violent incidents in the city’s schools involving armed students, including the fatal stabbing of a 16-year-old at Montgomery High School in March.

That vote took place at a packed public meeting at City Council chambers. Among those in attendance were yellow-vested members of the Safe Campus Alliance, a group of parents, students, teachers and community members in favor of the return of school resource officers.

Earlier the same day, a 14-year-old student from a crosstown middle school had trespassed onto campus with a knife, police said.

That night the board endorsed Trustee Jeremy De La Torre’s motion to form a pilot program that would put school resource officers back on campuses. Trustees Ed Sheffield, Stephanie Manieri, Ever Flores and Roxanne McNally voted in favor of a new, modified partnership with Santa Rosa Police.

Board members Alegria De La Cruz and Omar Medina opposed it.

It remains unclear what the pilot program will look like, and how the costs will be shared between the district and the city.

Speaking at that Dec. 13 board meeting, Santa Rosa Police Chief John Cregan estimated that it would take about six months to line up funding, select officers and ramp up the program to launch at the start of the 2024-25 school year.

“We really focus on making sure that our students are safe — that’s No. 1,” said Elsie Allen Principal Albavera.

“We want to make sure they know where to go to if there's any situation of violence, and they know the adults that they can go to for that.

“In regards to students getting involved in gang behavior, that happens a lot earlier than [when] they get here.

“This is happening at middle school level. It happens at elementary school level.”

Staff writers Colin Atagi and Adriana Gutierrez contributed to this story.

Report For America corps member Adriana Gutierrez covers education and child welfare issues for The Press Democrat. Reach her at

You can reach Staff Writer Austin Murphy at

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