Petaluma Police arrested three Rohnert Park teens Sunday in connection with the stabbing of a 21-year-old rival gang member in front of Kmart on North McDowell Boulevard.

The incident occurred at approximately 2 p.m. outside the crowded store's front entrance, in plain view of multiple shoppers and staff. Sgt. Andrew Urton said that all parties involved have gang-affiliations.

According to Urton, the teens — two 17-year-olds and a 16-year-old — initially engaged in a verbal altercation with the victim, a 21-year-old homeless man, inside the store. As the argument escalated, both parties went outside where the three juveniles stabbed the man in the back and stomach and fled the scene.

Urton said that the juveniles hid inside the nearby Raley's while the victim drove himself to the Petaluma Valley Hospital. Police apprehended one of the teens inside the Raley's bathroom at the front of the store, while witnesses helped officers locate the other two juveniles hiding in a bathroom in the back of the store. The teens were arrested and booked into juvenile hall.

Urton said that he is unsure as to the victim's current medical status, since the 21-year-old has been uncooperative with police.

A knife that was most likely the weapon was recovered by police in a garbage can located along the teen's footpath to Raley's and is being processed for fingerprints and blood, Urton added.

Petaluma resident Joan Bunn, whose daughter works at Kmart, was waiting in line at the front of the store and witnessed the incident. She said that she was really surprised to see gang activity in such a public place.

"For this to happen in broad daylight is really worrisome," she said.

Per police policy, the names of the suspects and the victim are being withheld since the three teens are juveniles and the 21-year-old is the victim of a violent crime.

(Contact Janelle Wetzstein at