District police respond to mental health crisis on campus


Sean Young

An SRJC Police officer speaks with an individual having a mental health crisis on the south side rooftop of the Zumwalt Parking Garage on Friday, Feb. 14, 2023 in Santa Rosa.

Sean Young and Michael Combs

Santa Rosa Junior College District Police responded to an emergency situation regarding a distressed individual perched on the ledge of the fifth floor of the Zumwalt Parking Garage Tuesday afternoon.

At approximately 1:15 p.m. District Police sent an SRJC alert about a police event and told students to avoid the area. Two officers encountered a person standing on the upper ledge of the south end of the parking garage.

One District Police officer spoke with the individual who eventually accepted water from them and sat down on the slanted rooftop before moving to a lower ledge. The other officer stood nearby and contacted the Sonoma County Department of Health Services.

After about 20 minutes, the person stepped down from the ledge and sat against a wall in the parking lot and spoke with both officers. Two members of the Behavioral Health Division of the Sonoma County Department of Health Services arrived in the middle of the event and engaged with the individual after officers talked them down from the ledge.

Police didn’t release the individual’s name at this time.

This was the second incident in two weeks. On Feb. 6 District Police responded to a similar incident on the Petaluma campus. District Police sent out an SRJC Alert asking students to stay away from the Call Hall Parking Lot. District police and first responders were on scene immediately and were able to de-escalate the event.

According to SRJC Police Chief Robert Brownlee, when they receive a call about a mental health crisis, the protocol is to send officers out to try to make contact with the individual having a crisis and establish a rapport. If officers feel the person could harm themself they attempt a mental health assessment and try to get the person to a safe spot.

Brownlee said when District Police send an alert that pertains to a medical issue, such as a mental health crisis, they will use the words “police activity” and “please stay away for your safety.” This is standard language within the first responder community and is used to expedite a message out to students and faculty as soon as possible. There are different templates for an active shooter. In such a scenario the alert will have the words “Run, Hide, Fight,” and if necessary, later alerts will notify students and instructors if they can safely return to class.

There are several resources available to people if they or anyone they know is experiencing a mental health crisis, including the Sonoma County Mental Health Emergency Services at (707) 576-8181, Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1(800) 272-8255 and the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (formerly The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) by dialing or texting 988.

Additional reporting by Peter Morales, Hana Seals & Nick Vides

Correction: an earlier version of this story erroneously indicated that the individual was a student at Santa Rosa Junior College. We at the Oak Leaf apologize for the error.