A Santa Rosa Junior College female student robbed at gunpoint after leaving class Thursday night has the campus community on high alert.
It’s a “very infrequent” crime at the college, said campus Police Chief Robert Brownlee, who couldn’t recall a single armed robbery on campus in his 13 years on the job.
Between 2015 and 2017, there were no robberies at any of the college’s campuses, according to the most recent security report by campus police.
Some students who received an alert on their phones Friday morning about the robbery said they were shaken by it.
Freshman Bailey Esposti, 19, said she’s thinking about getting pepper spray or a small Taser. She doesn’t like to be on campus at night and said she walks to classes in the early morning with a friend.
Around 8:15 p.m. Thursday, a student told campus police she had just finished a class when two men approached her from behind near the southeast side of Bech Hall on the Santa Rosa campus.
One of the men grabbed her by her sleeve, and she tried to pull away. The other man pointed a black handgun at her back and demanded she “give him what she had,” police said.
She gave the man with the gun an undisclosed amount of money from her backpack. Then he pushed her toward nearby bushes and the two men left on foot, possibly on the pathway between Lark and Baker Hall, police said.
Three campus officers arrived quickly after the student’s call and searched the area, but the suspects weren’t found. Brownlee said the investigation is ongoing, adding “we take these matters seriously.”
President Frank Chong encouraged the college community to be alert on campus and work with police in crime prevention.
“While Santa Rosa Junior College’s culture is centered on inclusivity and understanding, we must still accept that some individuals cannot be reasoned with and may come to our campus with malicious intent, such as those who chose to rob one of our students yesterday,” Chong wrote in an email to staff on Friday. “I do not say this to cause alarm, but to stress the importance of being vigilant in our awareness of our surroundings.”
Rachael Alcazar, 18, who has night classes twice a week, said she stays alert by walking without headphones and making eye contact with passersby.
Although she’s not paranoid about campus safety, the armed robbery “did kind of raise the mentality of like, wow, you’re not prepared for something like that if it comes to it,” Alcazar said.
The area where the robbery occurred Thursday night — by Bech Hall near Elliott Avenue — is a quieter part of campus, away from more social areas like the Bertolini Student Center, Doyle Library or the bookstore. It’s a spot students and staff wouldn’t linger, unless they had a class to attend, Brownlee said.
The victim, who was not identified, described the man with a handgun as about 6 feet tall and heavyset. The other man had a medium build and possibly wore a gold chain necklace. Both men wore dark-hooded sweatshirts and had dark complexions, the student said.
The campus police department asks that anyone with information about Thursday’s incident is to please call 707-527-1000.