SANTA ROSA, Calif. (AP) — A 16-year-old student involved in a fight at a Northern California high school was fatally stabbed Wednesday inside a classroom full of students, authorities said.
Another student also suffered a stab wound and the suspect, a 15-year-old freshman, is in custody, according to Santa Rosa police. All three students are male.
The two victims, both juniors at Montgomery High School, walked into an art classroom around 11:15 a.m. and began fighting with the freshman, Santa Rosa Police Chief John Cregan said during a news conference. About 30 people were in the classroom.
Teachers initially broke up the fight, but the freshman pulled out a folding knife and stabbed the juniors, the chief said.
The juniors went to the school nurse, and both were conscious and alert when they were taken to the hospital, Cregan said. But one of the teens, who had three stab wounds to his upper body, died there.
The other is expected to survive a stab wound to his left hand, the chief said. The juniors were not armed.
The freshman fled and was later found hiding in a creek bed and taken into custody, Cregan said. Investigators are still looking for the folding knife.
The three students appear to have known each other and had fought previously, but Cregan said it wasn’t immediately clear what prompted Wednesday’s fight.
“It appears that there had been some previous altercations between these students,” Cregan said, without providing additional details.
The students’ names were not immediately released.
“This is truly a sad day. The tragedy that happened here today is heartbreaking,” Anna Trunnell, the Santa Rosa City Schools superintendent, said at the news conference.
Several students raised questions at the news conference about their safety and asked why school officials did not do more to stop the students’ behavior despite knowing there were problems between the three teens. The officials walked out instead of answering.
Officials had earlier said none of the district’s schools have metal detectors or police officers inside.
“We are going to be assessing how we approach supporting our students and making sure that they know that this is a safe place, and we will be examining how exactly we’re going to do that,” Trunnell said.
The district’s board voted in 2020 to “pause” the school resource officers program for a review, The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reported, but the department is clamoring to get back inside the classrooms.
“In 2022, SRPD responded to 945 calls for service at schools here in Santa Rosa. Our city is feeling the impact of not having School Resource Officers on campus,” the Santa Rosa Police Officers Association, the union that represents the department’s rank-and-file officers, wrote on Facebook after Wednesday’s violence.
Santa Rosa, a city known for its wineries, is about 50 miles north of San Francisco.