*WARNING*—Readers beware, there are graphic photographs in this article depicting the wounds suffered by the victim in the described circumstance.
Around 2:00 p.m. on January 27, 2022, a dust-up between two teenage boys turned into a medical emergency when one wielded a knife, cutting and stabbing his opponent. The victim was hospitalized, and Willits Police Department Chief Fabian Lizarraga told us investigators have identified the suspect and are in the process of contacting, interviewing, and potentially arresting him.
The mother of the teenage boy victimized by this circumstance reached out to us to tell her son’s story. Throughout this piece, the names of the mother and the two teenage boys will be withheld to protect their identities. As Chief Lizarraga pointed out, “Kids are protected under the courts and the laws from being identified. Outside that, you don’t want to label a 15-16-year-old kid as a criminal. You want them to get better.”
The victim’s mother told us her son went to pick up a cell phone from his ex-girlfriend and the girl’s new boyfriend accompanied her. Cross words were exchanged, and the boys began to brawl north of the Little League fields.
The stakes of the teenage quarrel became deadly when the suspect pulled out a knife, which the victim’s mother described as a “retractable knife” and proceeded to cut and stab the victim.
The suspect fled, the victim sought help at the nearby Willits Charter School, and emergency services were contacted and he was taken to the hospital.
“My son received two superficial stab wounds to his back and one on his left side that was millimeters away from his intestine,” the victim’s mother told us. “The doctor said he was very lucky.”
Chief Lizarraga told us as the victim and suspect prepared to fight, the knife made an appearance and the victim communicated he no longer was interested in a physical altercation. At that point, all physical resistance on the behalf of the victim became self-defense.
Over the last month, there have been several publicized incidents regarding juveniles and local law enforcement reportedly finding them with firearms. When asked if this stabbing was part of a rising crime wave amongst local youth, Chief Lizaragga said this incident was a stand-alone circumstance and was not seen as part of a pattern.
In discussing law enforcement’s approach towards juveniles committing violent crimes, Chief Lizarraga told us last Thursday’s incident represents a felony assault with a deadly weapon charge and a resulting great bodily injury, charges he characterized as “serious.”
Restorative justice, a system of criminal justice that emphasizes rehabilitation through offenders reconciling with victims and the community, is often an approach used when dealing with juvenile offenders. When asked if restorative justice would be applicable in this circumstance, Chief Lizarraga said, “Restorative justice works when there is remorse. To go into a situation where you challenge someone to a fight knowing you’re going to pull out a knife, that needs to be addressed in the judicial system.”
Chief Lizarraga said a story like this is an important opportunity to remind parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors to revisit strategies to solve conflicts with the younger generation.
This document entitled “Anger Management for Teens” could be a good guide to any adult in a young person’s life who wants to impart guidance in managing anger and productively solving conflict.
If any member of the public has information for the Willits Police Department about this incident, contact them at (707) 459-6122.