Suspect identified in Cotati shooting

Officials from the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office have identified a suspect in the Sonoma State University officer-involved shooting on May 5 in Cotati as Eduardo Martinez Sanchez of Santa Rosa. Martinez Sanchez, 22, remains hospitalized from wounds he suffered in the shooting that took place around 5 a.m. following a fight in downtown Cotati.

Martinez Sanchez is currently on parole and has a long record riddled with a history of weapons, gang and violent offense charges. According to sheriff’s detectives, all identified witnesses to the incident have been interviewed.

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According to reports, the Sonoma State University police officer will remain unnamed due to concerns over personal safety. The officer responded to Cotati to serve as backup for the local law enforcement who were called to break up fights in various locations as the Cotati Crawl shut its doors.

 “As California State University police officers, we have statewide authority, but our primary jurisdiction is the university,” said Interim Chief of Police David Dougherty.

According to Dougherty, Rohnert Park, Cotati and Sonoma State University police officers frequently work together and are a close-knit group law enforcement who strive to create a safe environment for the community. This Tri Community Coalition also serves as a nexus for relationships with agencies throughout Sonoma County.

As the officers responded to an initial fight, another fight broke out across the street. When the officers responded, they heard four gunshots, which is supported by a video taken from the body cameras worn by police officers. The responding officers took cover because they believed the shots were fired at them, officials say. Witnesses were fleeing from the shots and when they arrived at the officers’ location, they described a violent scene of a man assaulting a woman. According to official reports, when the witnesses tried to intervene, the man started shooting at them. When officials responded to the area, they found four shell casings from a handgun.

Rohnert Park public safety officers also responded to the scene to provide any further assistance and reported that they were in contact with potential victims of the shooting. Five witnesses described a similar scene and one woman gave an initial description of the suspect as a Hispanic male with short hair. The same witness saw they saw a man striking a woman and chose to intervene by striking the suspect twice in the face. According to witnesses, the man hit the witness in the face and brandished a handgun, threatening to kill her.

Around 4:45 a.m., the Sonoma State University officer was driving eastbound down E. Cotati Ave. after getting debriefed by the Cotati Police Department on the earlier incident when he saw Martinez Sanchez walk from a creek bed. After making contact with the suspect and concluding that this man fit the description of the suspect, the officer tried to detain him. Martinez Sanchez broke free from the officer’s grasp and proceeded to run.

Throughout the chase, the officer says he saw the suspect grab at his waistband several times and, according to reports, the officer saw a silver object stuck there. The chase ended outside the New Hope Church, when the suspect slowed to a walk and turned his body towards the officer.

The officer reportedly fired two rounds at the suspect which struck Martinez Sanchez in the back. The Sheriff’s Office said the officer fired because he feared for his life. 

“People don’t often realize that officers are scared as well, and they have a family to go home to,” said senior criminal justice major Jeremy Ashley.

Officials found a loaded, silver-colored semi-automatic handgun in bushes close to where the shooting took place. The handgun was the same caliber as the casings found in the downtown Cotati incident from earlier that night.

 Martinez Sanchez was rushed to a local hospital where he was listed in stable condition as of Friday, according to the latest official report. According to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, once the investigation is completed, officials most likely will be seekingfelony charges.