Sonoma State University identifies officer involved in Cotati shooting

Sonoma State University has released the name of a campus officer who shot a man two weeks ago in Cotati.

The 22-year-old man was armed, police said, and was being sought as a suspect in a shooting hours earlier.

The officer, Rafael Cardenas, 28, joined the SSU police force a year ago, according to campus officials, who declined to release additional details about his employment or service record. Campus authorities and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the shooting, said they withheld his name after the incident to assure his safety was not in jeopardy.

On May 5, Cardenas was on duty off campus - SSU officers regularly work beyond the borders of the Rohnert Park campus - when, about 4:45 a.m., he spotted a man, Eduardo Martinez Sanchez, who matched the description of a gunman sought by officers in an earlier altercation near the Cotati Plaza, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Cardenas, who first saw Martinez Sanchez emerge from a creek bed as he was driving on East Cotati Avenue, was unable to initially detain him after the man pushed him away and fled on foot, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Cardenas used his Taser to subdue the man, knocking him off his feet before he resumed his flight toward New Hope Church on East Cotati Avenue, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

There, in the parking lot, Cardenas shot Martinez Sanchez twice in the back when he noticed the suspect reach for a silver object in his waistband, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Martinez Sanchez, of Santa Rosa, was in “stable but critical condition” at a local hospital Thursday, said Sgt. Spencer Crum, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office. Martinez Sanchez is associated with a Sureño gang in Santa Rosa, Crum said. The suspect has been in and out of jail since 2013, Crum said, and has been convicted of multiple gang, violence and weapons offenses.

The officer-involved shooting stemmed from an incident hours before when rowdy crowds gathered on the street in Cotati after bars closed at 2 a.m. Martinez Sanchez assaulted a woman on the street, and when a 20-year-old female witness tried to get him ?to stop, he slapped her twice, authorities said.

Martinez Sanchez grabbed the witness by the throat and pulled out a handgun, threatening to kill her, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The 20-year-old was pulled away by her friend and fled. Martinez Sanchez fired four shots in their direction, authorities said.

A silver semi-automatic handgun found under bushes in a fenced area of the New Hope Church matched the description of the weapon brandished hours before and was of the same caliber as four bullet casings recovered after the downtown Cotati shooting, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Martinez Sanchez faces six felony charges, including domestic assault and negligent discharge of a firearm, two misdemeanors and violation of parole.

Cardenas remains on paid leave while the investigation proceeds.

You can reach Staff Writer Nick Rahaim at 707-521-5203.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor

Our Network

The Press Democrat
Sonoma Index-Tribune
Petaluma Argus Courier
North Bay Business Journal
Sonoma Magazine
Bite Club Eats
La Prensa Sonoma
Sonoma County Gazette