SRJC student suspected of raping fellow student at Petaluma campus library

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A 19-year-old man was arrested Thursday morning on suspicion of raping a fellow student at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Petaluma campus library, police said.

Brandon Larrieta Cortes of Petaluma was taken into custody just south of the college on his way to class, Petaluma Police Sgt. Paul Gilman said.

A female student reported to campus police Tuesday she had been assaulted a day earlier at Herold Mahoney Library. The Petaluma Police Department, the lead agency for all serious crimes on campus, identified Cortes as the lone suspect, Gilman said.

“When we believe a crime occurred, what we’re trying to do is go beyond a simple ‘he said, she said,’” Gilman said, declining to discuss the evidence further. “I can’t go into it, but we did establish probable cause to make the arrest in this case.”

Cortes was booked into Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of rape, sodomy and sexual battery, police said. His bail was set at $125,000.

His first court appearance is scheduled for Monday afternoon. Cortes had no prior criminal history as an adult in Sonoma County, according to a court records search.

The victim and Cortes knew each other before the reported assault, at least as casual friends, Gilman said. He was not clear on the extent of their relationship or how far back it goes.

“A report of this nature shakes our campus community to the core,” SRJC President Frank Chong said in a statement. “SRJC takes this matter very seriously and is dedicated to doing everything in our power (to) ensure that our students and employees are safe on campus and that any victim of such a crime has support resources readily available.”

The SRJC Student Government had already planned to host a “Take Back the Night” event later in March with a mission of ending all forms of sexual, relationship and domestic violence as part of Women’s History Month. That will take place at 5 p.m. March 27 at the quad in front of the Santa Rosa campus student center; Chong asked members of the SRJC community to join in the campuswide stand against sexual assault.

Gilman did not believe there were witnesses to Monday’s reported assault, but he asked anyone with information that could assist the investigation to call the detective overseeing the case at 707-778-4456.

“If anybody did see anything, they are asked to come forward,” Gilman said.

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