The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    SSU students arrested in connection with dorm room burglaries

    As if the fires, evacuations, and current college course load weren’t enough to stress about, some students returned to their dorms to find windows forced open, their rooms ransacked and items were stolen. 

    Three Sonoma State University students were arrested following the rash of dorm room burglaries that occurred while students were forced to evacuate campus during the Kincade fires and the associated planned power outage.

    All three suspects are 18-year-old freshmen attending Sonoma State, and following their arrest, they have all been suspended indefinitely. Lamont Bryan Paxton, Daryl Livington Reems and Jose Ricardo Rubio were detained following a traffic stop Tuesday, Oct. 29, and charged with burglary and possession of the stolen property. At the time, police did not know where the burglaries had occurred, but days later reports came in by the dozen.

    All three suspects were released on a $10,000 bond and are awaiting their next court hearing.

    The three men apparently decided to take advantage of the fact that nobody was on campus. Based on fingerprint and footprint evidence left at the scene, it appears the perpetrators entered the buildings by forcing their way in windows.

    University spokesperson Paul Gullixson told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that this was a “crime of opportunity” and that it is a “ very disappointing and frustrating situation, given that it occurred in the midst of a regional crisis while our campus was closed and most vulnerable.”

    With the Kincade fire burning and winds forecast to blow South in the direction of campus, University officials made the decision to evacuate on Oct. 26. This decision forced thousands of students to pack up what they could and leave campus. Email notices were sent out advising that campus would be closed, doors would be locked, and anybody found on campus would be cited for trespassing.

    Reports vary as to the number of times students were given to pack up their belongings and evacuate. Some students reported having two hours while others claimed to have only received a 20-minute warning.

    Once students were allowed to come back to their dorms on Saturday, Nov. 2 they discovered the break-ins. At least 24 burglaries have been reported to University Police so far.

    Freshman Anna Martinez returned to her dorm room after receiving a call from roommates alerting her of the break-in, only to find fingerprints on her window and a footprint on a nearby desk where the perpetrators had presumably entered the building.

    Anna said that when the students returned to the building they discovered that the residential advisors (RA’s) had left the individual bedrooms unlocked, which allowed the perpetrators easy-access into all of the rooms once they were inside the buildings.

    University Police accompanied RA’s during a walk-through of the building, but it is unclear who made the decision to leave all interior doors unlocked.

    The perpetrators gained access and stole items from practically every room on the first floor. Jewelry, laptops, musical instruments and miscellaneous personal items were reported missing.

    Dorms located in the Sauvignon Village were most impacted; however, the Cabernet, Verdot, and Zinfandel Villages were also affected.

    The burglaries suggest a lack of security on campus, and the events have many students questioning the university’s protocols and procedures.

    Mandatory evacuations have unfortunately become commonplace due to the wildfire danger in our area, but County officials must balance evacuation orders with increased security in evacuated areas to discourage looters. While the University’s decision to evacuate is understandable in light of student safety concerns, safety and security efforts need to extend beyond the evacuation order.

    Evacuating on-campus housing leaves many students temporarily homeless, causes increased levels of anxiety and stress, and interferes with the emotional and mental well-being of all affected, many of whom are first-year college students.

    Anna spoke for many of the affected students when she said, “we just don’t understand why the doors weren’t locked.”

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