Placeholder Image SRPD Chief John Cregan addresses the media, students and parents after a fatal stabbing at Santa Rosa's Montgomery High School on March 1, 2023
photo credit: Courtesy of KPIX

The investigation continues as the Santa Rosa community grapples with the fatal stabbing at Montgomery High School yesterday.

At a press conference at Montgomery High and in subsequent releases, Santa Rosa Police Chief John Cregan shared preliminary details on the case.

It involves two 16-year-old male students, juniors at Montgomery, entering a classroom and confronting a 15-year-old male freshman, resulting in a fight.

The fight was broken up temporarily by a teacher and teacher's aides, but the 15-year old produced a knife and stabbed the two 16-year-olds - fatally so for Montgomery High student Jayden Jess Pienta.

Tempers flared when Cregan called an abrupt end to Wednesday's press conference, with students and community members pressing for answers and accountability.

The 15-year-old student who fatally stabbed Pienta was arrested within an hour, after fleeing and hiding in a creek bed near the campus.

He is being held at the county's Juvenile Justice Center on four separate charges: felony homicide, attempted homicide, weapon on a school campus, and misdemeanor battery on a school campus.

As a minor, he is not being named.

Chris Mahurin, public information officer for the Santa Rosa Police Department, said right now the focus is on fact finding.

"Our job and our role in this investigation is primarily to collect the evidence and forward that information to the District Attorney's Office," Mahurin said. "So as we continue to investigate this and interview the numerous students and teachers that were in that classroom, if it turns out overall that it appeared to be primarily self-defense, all of that will get related to the DA's Office."

Mahurin said the charges could change as more details emerge.

"[The] DA's office will make a decision about if they want to charge as arrested, if they want to reduce the charges to something else that they feel is more applicable based on our investigation, or if they want to dismiss charges outright at our initial investigation," Mahurin said.

Mahurin explained the current charges to questions about whether the 15-year-old student was exercising self defense.

"Well, yes, it appeared that there may be some elements of that," Mahurin said. "The student did pull out a knife and the other two students did not have any weapons at them as well. So by the law, it is a homicide."

Santa Rosa Police Department Chief Cregan and the Santa Rosa Police Officers Association are calling for a return of school resource officers, also called SRO's. Those are city police who had for many years been present during school hours on the city's public school campuses. The program was suspended in 2020.

Mahurin said much is still to be determined from within the community before a final decision on an SRO program is made.

"Calendar year of 2022 for Santa Rosa City schools who responded to 945 different calls for service," Mahurin said. "Everything ranging from fights on campus, to weapons on campus, to some smaller offenses as well."

"But we are seeing a lot of incidents happening on campuses, whether it's because we don't have SROs on campus or because even Covid is now bringing kids back together who didn't have some of those times, we don't know," Mahurin said. "But I think that's something that our agency as well as the city and the school district, are going to start looking at together to find a way to make a safer school system."

After the conclusion of Wednesday's press conference, Mahurin remained at the podium taking questions from students and community members calling for community meetings for students and parents to let their thoughts be known.

He said they hope to provide a forum as soon as possible.

"So the goal is to kind of figure out today, tomorrow, if that's going to be plausible for school staff to be able to make something happen for next week, but we are really shooting for that," Mahurin said.

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