Update: Family identifies 16-year-old fatally stabbed at Montgomery High in Santa Rosa
SANTA ROSA – A memorial outside Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa grew Wednesday evening as family and friends mourned the loss of a teenage boy who was fatally stabbed during a fight in a classroom.
Two teenage students were stabbed, one fatally, during the fight, according to police.
Family members told KPIX the teen who died was 16-year-old Jayden Pienta.
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Around 11:10 a.m. officers were called to the school on Hahman Drive on reports of a fight on campus.
In an update Wednesday afternoon, police said two 16-year-old male students who were juniors entered a classroom where an art class was being held and confronted a male 15-year-old freshman student.
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An argument ensued between the three teens. Police said the teacher and three aids were able to briefly break up the fight, but the students began fighting again. The freshman brandished a knife and stabbed both 16-year-olds.
"The knife was described as a folding knife with a black handle that had a blade of approximately four to five inches," explained Santa Rosa Police Chief John Cregan Wednesday afternoon. "One of those students received what appeared to be three stab wounds to his upper body. One student received one stab wound to his left hand."
Officers arrived on scene within four minutes of receiving the call, police said.
Update: Mother of teen stabbed at Montgomery High blames school for deadly fight
Both those students left the classroom, started to assess their injuries and went to the school office to speak with the school nurse. Police said officers immediately contacted the students, who were both were alert and conscious when they provided police with their initial statements.
Both stabbing victims were taken to a local hospital. Pienta sustained at least three stab wounds and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Meanwhile, the other 16-year-old sustained at least one stab wound and is expected to survive his injuries.
Following the stabbing, the suspect fled from campus.
"We had 36 Santa Rosa officers respond to this incident and started combing the area," said Cregan. "We had mutual aid assistance from the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department and the Sonoma County's helicopter aided in our search."
As they searched for the suspect, police received a tip from a witness at St. Eugene's Cathedral nearby that a young man was seen hiding in a nearby creek bed.
The suspect, a 15-year-old, was taken into custody without incident.
In a statement Wednesday night, police said the suspect was booked into the Sonoma County Juvenile Justice Center on charges of homicide, attempted homicide, felony weapon on a school campus and misdemeanor battery on a school campus.
His name was not released due to his age.
"This is truly a sad day. The tragedy that happened here today is heartbreaking. Our thoughts are with the students involved, their families, friends, classmates and staff of Montgomery High School," said Santa Rosa City Schools Superintendent Anna Trunnell. "Right now our focus is on meeting the immediate physical and emotional needs of our students and staff."
Family members spoke with KPIX Wednesday evening as they struggled to come to grips with their loss.
"He was a good boy. A quiet and gentle boy. He did not harm anybody. This is so out of character for something like this to happen to him. I don't understand," said Jayden's grandmother, Cheryl Griffith.
Jayden's aunt Renee Helm described the teen as "a great kid" and said there was nothing they could have done to stop the deadly incident.
"He minded his own business. He did good in school. He was one of the sweetest, most lovable, kindest, cutest, most compassionate…He didn't deserve any of this," Helm said. "Nobody saw this coming. It's an absolute tragedy and a loss."
When asked if there was an issue with the school not doing enough to mitigate conflict between students, Helm said, "The school didn't do anything. They did nothing. They were reported to last week when tires were slashed and there were confrontations, but they didn't do anything. They didn't document it. They didn't call parents."
"They didn't even call the parents today! School kids called the parents today to let them know their son had just been stabbed," said Griffith.
"It was complete negligence. Absolute crap. It's unacceptable," said Jayden's aunt. "It is unacceptable behavior. This is where we trust our children to go! This is where they're supposed to be safe!"
One of the family members said the teen had asked his father to have him home schooled after things had deteriorated at Montgomery High School.
"How is his mother going to get through this? How are we going to get through this?" asked Cheryl.
School officials confirmed Wednesday evening that Montgomery High would be closed on Thursday and Friday following the deadly incident.
One student who asked questions at the press conference said the school didn't do enough to take charge of the incident.
"This school should be held accountable. A student had to call 911. Nobody else did. A student did; a kid," the student, who was not identified, told KPIX. "The school didn't do anything. The school knew these two had problems beforehand. the school. It's their job to keep us safe."
According to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, several campuses in the area were locked down, including Santa Rosa French-American Charter School, Slater Middle School and Brook Hill Elementary, along with schools in the Rincon Valley Unified School District and the Bennett Valley Unified School District.
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