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Several students heard yelling. They then saw a 19-year-old man spill out of a second-floor Sonoma State University apartment with a knife and blood on his hands.

What should have been a quiet Sunday evening of study before a week of final exams turned into a traumatic night filled with anxiety and confusion.

A fight between two young men left one dead and the other in jail, with many unanswered questions Monday about the chain of events that led to the confrontation.

Tyler J. Bratton, 19, of Santa Rosa was held without bail Monday in Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of murder.

Police withheld the name of the victim, a 26‑year‑old Sonoma County man, pending notification of his family.

Neither man was a student at SSU, said Petaluma police Lt. Tim Lyons, whose agency is leading the investigation. He said the two men knew each other but would not disclose the nature of their relationship, and were on campus visiting friends when the fight broke out.

Lyons said both men knew a woman who lived in the apartment, located in Sauvignon Village, a freshman housing complex on the southwest end of the campus. During a press conference Monday, he deflected questions about whether the stabbing was gang- or drug-related.

SSU freshman Jordyn Day, 18, was walking back to her dorm from the library when she found Bratton, his hands were covered in blood, sitting behind the stucco apartment building with a pocketknife next to him. He was talking on the phone while a hysterical, blonde woman was standing next to him.

“I was like ‘oh, are you ok?’ And he said ‘no,’ ” Day said Monday.

“It was weird because I walked into the situation of there’s a knife,” Day said. “You don’t immediately think someone just stabbed someone.”

It’s the second homicide in two years to rattle the Rohnert Park university, where the body of Kirk Kimberly was found by a landscaper in a shallow grave in a wooded area on the edge of campus in late 2016. The 18-year-old Cotati man had been stabbed multiple times.

On Monday during a press conference, Sonoma State University President Judy Sakaki expressed sorrow for the death and emphasized that the school was open and finals were underway.

“All of us at Sonoma State are shocked and saddened by this tragic event. Our hearts go out to all who’ve been impacted,” Sakaki said. “Our focus today will be continuing to make sure the needs of our students and our campus community are met.”

Grief counselors were available to staff and students as all of the dorms reopened, except the apartment where the stabbing occurred.

“Campus life is going on as usual,” SSU spokesman Paul Gullixson said.

Students said they heard the fight and saw the suspect leave the apartment.

Freshman Sarah O., who declined to give her full name out of fear, was in the apartment below when she heard a commotion.

“I was home alone and I heard something loud,” the 19-year-old woman said. “I thought maybe someone was getting robbed so I ran into my room to hide.”

She said the fight only lasted a few minutes, starting with banging on the floor from a scuffle, yelling and finally footsteps racing toward the door. It would be hours before she’d learn someone died upstairs.

Cal Fire findings on 12 Northern California wildfires

Those referred to the District Attorney indicate Cal Fire determined PG&E was in violation of state code.

Redwood fire (Mendocino County): 543 structures destroyed, 9 deaths, 36,523 acres burned. The fires started in two locations when trees or tree parts fell onto PG&E power lines.

Nuns, Norrbom, Adobe, Partrick & Pythian fires (Sonoma and Napa counties): 1,355 structures destroyed; 3 deaths, 56,556 acres burned (Sonoma and Napa counties); all but Nuns fire referred to District Attorney.
• Nuns: Broken top of a tree crashed into powerlines.
• Norrbom: Tree fell onto powerlines.
• Adobe: Tree fell into PG&E powerline.
• Partrick: Oak tree fell into PG&E powerlines.
• Pythian: The fire started with a downed powerline caused after PG&E tried to re-energize the line.

Atlas fire (Napa County): 783 structures burned, 51,624 acres burned, 6 deaths; referred to the District Attorney.

Sulphur fire (Lake County): 2,207 acres, 162 structures destroyed; referred to the District Attorney. Fire ignited when a PG&E power pole failed, causing power lines and equipment to contact the ground.

Pocket fire (Sonoma County): 6 structures destroyed, 17,357 acres burned; referred to the District Attorney.

37 fire (Sonoma County): 3 structures destroyed, 1,660 acres burned (Sonoma County). PG&E distribution lines started an electrical fire.

Blue fire (Humboldt County): 20 acres burned; referred to the District Attorney. A PG&E powerline conductor separated from a connector, causing the conductor to fall to the ground and start a fire.

Cherokee fire (Butte County): 6 structures destroyed, 8,417 acres burned. Fire started when tree limbs made contact with PG&E powerlines.


Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

The shouting also caught freshman Alysse Moore’s attention while visiting a friend at the complex.

“We heard a lot of yelling and things crashing,” Moore, 18, said while walking to the library to study Monday. She was visibly distraught.

Moore said she saw a man with bloody hands stumble out of the apartment in the adjacent building and down the stairs. A blonde woman followed close behind him, she said. Someone called 911 from the apartment Moore was visiting.

Freshman Trenton Donnelly, 18, who was in the building across, said he saw two women run out of the apartment before a man holding a pocketknife emerged.

On Monday, officers and detectives finished interviewing a female student who was at the apartment during the stabbing, Lyons said. Police are seeking others who may have been there at the time.

“This is not a random act,” Lyons said. “Everybody involved knew each other.”

A 911 call alerted Sonoma State police at 5:53 p.m. of the stabbing at the freshman dorm. Initial dispatch reports indicated someone had a hand wound.

Sonoma State officers found the suspect outside the Alicante apartment building, blood drops and small pocketknife‑style blade nearby, Lyons said. Bratton’s hands were bagged by police to protect any evidence on them, he said.

The victim was found amidst a bloody scene in the upstairs apartment bedroom. He was declared dead at 6:06 p.m. Police haven’t said how many times he was stabbed, deferring to results of Tuesday’s scheduled autopsy.

Cotati and Rohnert Park police also responded to the stabbing as the building was cordoned off, witnesses sought and students corralled into their apartments. At 7:25 p.m. Petaluma police were asked to take over the investigation as it has more resources for a homicide investigation, Lyons said.

More interviews were underway Monday of students who had been in the area at the time. Detectives also were seeking search warrants, including for cellphones.

“We have two people of interest we’re trying to track down,” Lyons said, referring to people who could have information to help the investigation.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 707‑521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter@rossmannreport. You can reach Staff Writer Nick Rahaim at 707-521-5203 or nick.rahaim@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nrahaim.

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