Witnesses describe Sacramento City College shooting
A killer remained on the loose Friday as students and staff at Sacramento City College tried to come to terms with the deadly violence that broke out on their normally lively but peaceful campus the day before, leaving one man dead and another seriously wounded.
Dozens of members of the college community gathered on the main quad at lunchtime to offer each other support and to hear from college leaders. They talked in small groups or stood alone gazing into cellphones. Some wept as they wrote condolences on large sheets of paper taped together titled “A Time To Bond Together.”
“Everyone looks like they’re down,” said Robert Kendrick, 18, of Natomas. “Usually (the quad) is packed, with music playing. I think people are shocked.”
The college freshman said he was at football practice Thursday afternoon when he heard several loud bangs that he thought were construction noises but turned out to be gunshots that killed a fellow student.
Here is how events unfolded, according to police and campus officials. They have released information in a piecemeal manner, without identifying the shooter or another man seriously injured in the melee, and without saying explicitly what role each of the four combatants played.
At about 3:50 p.m., Roman P. Gonzalez and his friend Rico Ridgeway – both of whom have criminal records – began fighting with two still-unidentified men in a college parking lot on the south end of campus off Sutterville Road.
Words turned to violence. Ridgeway, a former student, then allegedly stabbed another young man who is a current Sac City student. The unidentified stabbing victim was taken to an area hospital, seriously wounded. His condition is unknown.
A third man fired shots, killing Gonzalez, also a student, and grazing Ridgeway, who tried desperately to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on his dying friend Gonzalez in the parking lot.
The CPR attempt was captured by students in cellphone videos, some of which were posted on social media sites, upsetting family members.
In one video, Ridgeway, shirtless with his jeans falling down around his boxer shorts, held his shirt to his wounded side as police ordered him to step away from Gonzalez so officers with medical training could take over.
Later, Ridgeway sat in the back of a patrol car looking downcast. His wound did not require hospitalization, police said.
On Friday, Sacramento police said they had arrested Ridgeway, 24, on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the case. He was booked into the Sacramento County jail at 12:45 a.m. Friday and also charged with a parole violation.
As of Friday afternoon, police were still searching for the man who shot and killed Gonzalez, 25, of Sacramento. They said the unnamed gunman fled on foot and described him as a Pacific Islander, wearing a white shirt and tan cargo shorts.
Irma Gonzalez, no relation to the victim, said she was walking home from class Thursday afternoon when she heard shots. A man fitting the gunman’s description ran from the direction of the shots, crouched between two parked cars and stuffed something into his backpack, she said.
She asked him if there had been a shooting, to which he replied, “No. I don’t know,” then ran toward the central campus and Freeport Boulevard, she said.
“He was in a panic,” she said. “I came face to face with the killer.”
Gonzalez said she rounded the corner of the parking lot and saw the shooting victim receiving CPR.
“I thought: ‘School is a good place. This doesn’t happen? Who brings a gun to school?’ ”
The shooting and ensuing manhunt badly rattled the campus and the the established, leafy neighborhoods around it, including Land Park, Curtis Park and Hollywood Park. Throughout the later afternoon and early evening Thursday, a police helicopter circled overhead and dozens of squad cars converged on the scene.
Los Rios Community College District police were first to respond, followed by Sacramento Police Department officers, including an anti-gang unit and crime scene investigators.
Kimberly Jenkins, 18, a freshman, said she was coming out of class about 3:50 p.m., just as police were arriving.
“We saw the cop cars just zoom through” the campus from all directions, she said.
For hours police cars and flares blocked off a stretch of Sutterville Road near the south end of campus and residents were warned to keep clear. Gonzalez’s body lay in the parking lot for at least an hour after the shooting.
Meanwhile, students were evacuated building by building as officers conducted a campuswide search. They declared the campus clear at 7:45 p.m.
Los Rios spokesman Mitchel Benson said this is the first shooting on any district campus. The district is the second-largest community college district in the state and operates two-year public institutions in the greater Sacramento region including American River College and Folsom Lake College.
Police are investigating whether the violence at Sacramento City College was gang-related. At least two of the participants in the conflict – Gonzalez and Ridgeway – have criminal records that include armed attacks.
Sacramento Superior Court records show Ridgeway was charged with four felonies in 2013, including assault with a firearm. He pleaded no contest to that charge in October 2013. Ridgeway served 10 months and was paroled in February 2015, state corrections records show.
Gonzalez had his own criminal record, court documents show. He was charged in 2006 with three felonies, including assault with a semi-automatic firearm. He pleaded no contest to assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to two years in a California Youth Authority facility.
Gonzalez served nearly six months of his sentence, but was returned to custody twice for suspected parole violations, according to state corrections records. His parole expired in March 2013.
In an Aug. 28 post on his Facebook page, which he maintained under the name “Petey Flacz,” Gonzalez said he was interviewing for jobs and going to college, but expressed frustration that “dumb s... still be happening all the time to me and my fam.”
This was Gonzalez’s first year at Sacramento City College, according to his cousin Vincent Trejo.
“He was a good man, always willing to lend a hand,” Trejo said.
Gonzalez’s mother, Davida Trejo, lives in a modest house on West Pacific Avenue just south of the campus, near Track 7 brewery. She declined to comment on her son’s death Friday. Several neighbors said they didn’t know Roman Gonzalez.
As classes resumed Friday, there was a small makeshift memorial – with a balloon, flowers and empty liquor bottles –in the parking space where Gonzalez died. Several young women who identified themselves as friends stood or kneeled around the memorial but declined to comment.
Counselors were available on campus Friday, and security had been increased, though officers kept a low-key watch.
College President Kathryn Jeffery was among the administrators who sat in the college’s student center on Friday morning for those who wanted to talk.
“We just wanted to let students know what resources are available,” she said.
Other college officials on Friday addressed controversy over the time it took the college to put out alerts that there had been a shooting and an armed man was at large.
The shooting occurred at about 3:50 p.m., but some students said they didn’t get the first notification by text message until 4:41 p.m. They described the lack of information and mass evacuation as chaotic.
On Friday, Los Rios Police Chief Cheryl Sears said the first text and email notifications actually went out 17 minutes after the shooting but did not reach many recipients due to technical problems.
In a differing account, Sacramento City College spokesman Rick Brewer said it took 24 minutes for the first emails to be sent alerting campus staff about the shooting. A second set of emails was sent to students about 40 minutes after the shooting, he said.
Campus officials said it took several minutes for news of the shooting to get to the administrative offices, and more time for officials to make sure they understood the basics of what had happened before sending out the initial alert. The second email, sent to students, was more specific:
“Sacramento City College’s main campus is currently closed and locked down. This is because of an on-campus shooting that occurred approximately 30 minutes ago. If you are on campus currently, please shelter yourself in place until further notice.”
Brewer said officials will review their notification procedures in the coming weeks.