Two men in a west Santa Rosa Neighborhood, near the A Place To Play community park, had apparently had enough of some recent thefts in their neighborhood. According to the Santa Rosa Police, they were on the lookout for a gray van that was suspected of victimizing the neighborhood, and they were armed with sticks and pipes.
At around 6 am Tuesday, a man driving a dark gray van entered the neighborhood, and Rodeo Van Bladel and Matthew Mills thought they had their burglar. Van Bladel, 38, and Mills, 28, approached and confronted the driver, and began hitting the van with their weapons.
The driver of the van, later identified by the Santa Rosa Press Democrat as Jimmy Troconis of Rohnert Park, was not a prowler, but a newspaper delivery man. He is an independent contractor who distributes the Press Democrat, along with the San Francisco Chronicle, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications. When attacked, Troconis became frightened and did his best to get away. As he drove off, he hit a parked car near Baggett and Senna Drives. Van Bladel and Mills chased him in one of their own vehicles, and resumed their pounding on the van with their pipes and sticks.
Troconis, with his van immobilized, tried to run away, but the men chased after him and continued their assault. The Press Democrat reported that they beat him with their fists, shouted racial slurs, and finally left him lying on the ground, until police arrived responding to reports of the collision.
The Press Democrat reported that Troconis was a recent immigrant from Venezuala, who also worked at a pizzeria and carpet company in Santa Rosa. He was near the end of his route when the attack occurred. Rafael Quinto, who employs Troconis at his Rafy’s Pizzeria, was quoted as saying “He was just the newspaper guy. These guys were trying to take justice into their own hands, and this is really unacceptable. (Troconis) just had a baby, the poor guy is working three jobs.”
CBS 5 – KPIX reported that a neighbor in the area told them that crimes had been committed by people in a van, who drove around wearing masks, and that everyone is afraid. But Police have found no evidence to suggest that Troconis was connected to any past burglaries in the area.
Reports are that Troconis, who was planning to leave the delivery job anyway, is recovering with his wife and baby, while resuming work at one of his jobs, but will likely never deliver a paper again in his life. Rodeo Van Bladel and Matthew Mills were arrested and booked on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and conspiracy. But KPIX reported that Van Bladel told them that he is completely innocent of the attack, and was in his home at the time.
Update 2/13: Van Bladel’s protests of his innocence were somewhat belied by his behavior the next day, and likely damaged any friendship he had with his co-defendant, Mills. On Wednesday Van Bladel posted bail and was released from jail pending his trial. Later that day, according to Santa Rosa Police, he gave Teresa Dempsey, Matthew Mills’ girlfriend who is pregnant with their child, a ride to the Sonoma County Jail to visit Mills, who had not posted bail.
After the visit, the 28-year-old Dempsey was driving Van Bladel’s truck as they both returned home. Van Bladel began looking for his cell phone during the drive, and asked Ms. Dempsey where it was. When she couldn’t produce it, he began yelling at her, and became more and more agitated. The woman stopped the truck near Stony Point Road and West 9th Street, and Van Bladel got out, went to the drivers side still yelling, and pulled her from the seat, throwing her to the ground. He then kicked the pregnant woman twice in the abdomen, got in his truck and drove home.
Teresa Dempsey got up and walked the remaining half mile or so to her home. She reported seeing Van Bladel’s truck nearby, and went inside, locked her doors, and called 911 for help. Police, Fire and Medical personnel arrived. She was taken to the hospital for treatment, and Van Bladel was stopped nearby on Senna Way and arrested once again for assault, and committing a crime while on bail. The next day, Dempsey posted on her Facebook timeline “To update everyone. I was attacked last night by Rodeo Van Bladel. I was in the hospital until now. Im going to press charges against him. If anyone needs to talk to me about the situation please call”.
Santa Rosa Press Democrat: Pair seeking thief attack Santa Rosa newspaper carrier