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Sonoma rallies around man stabbed, beaten in roadside attack

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012 | Posted by

By RANDI ROSSMANN AND JULIE JOHNSON

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Ask anyone who knows Austin Ridge, and they’ll say the 28-year-old Sonoma man has the drive to survive injuries suffered last week when he was stabbed, beaten and left bleeding along a Boyes Hot Springs road.

Ridge already had survived a car crash. And in the decade since, Ridge has managed his physical disabilities with dignity and optimism. The well-known and well-liked man made his way around Sonoma Valley on his customized tricycle with its disabled placard and blue-and-red lights.

“He’s our Iron Man,” his aunt Kim Ridge said as she stood in the waning light Monday on her stoop in the heart of Sonoma. “After surviving his accident and now this . . .”

Ridge has a long way to go and remained hospitalized Monday in Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital’s intensive care unit, she said.

He was stabbed multiple times in the torso and arm and hit on the head. His attacker or attackers remain at large.

“He’s going to survive, but he’s in bad shape,” said Sonoma County Sheriff’s Sgt. Carlos Basurto.

Leads have led to no suspects, and detectives are hoping someone in the community will call with information.

The attack early Wednesday morning occurred on residential Lucas Avenue in Boyes Hot Springs, where Ridge had been riding. He frequently rode the bike late into the night, friends and family told detectives.

“It appears he ran into the wrong people. He came upon somebody or somebody came upon him,” Basurto said.

Before the attack, Ridge had a few beers with friends at Olde Sonoma Public House, a brew pub and favorite spot of his on Sonoma Highway.

Everything appeared fine at the bar.

“There were no arguments, no fights with anybody,” Basurto said.

The attack occurred between midnight Tuesday, when the pub closed, and 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, when a newspaper delivery person found Ridge on the side of Lucas Avenue, about a half-mile northwest from the pub. His bike was nearby.

Detectives found his wallet tossed over a fence in the neighborhood, but it was unclear whether anything was taken because Ridge couldn’t recall what he’d been carrying that night.

“We’re still working leads and processing evidence. But there are no witnesses to it. We spoke to the victim and he doesn’t remember — he took some pretty good head injuries,” Basurto said.

He has undergone brain surgery, according to a website posting by his mother, Kimberly Ridge, whose name is similar to his aunt’s. Subsequent posts indicated Ridge was improving.

Ridge was partially disabled almost 10 years ago after suffering head injuries in the car crash. His aunt said the driver appeared to have fallen asleep.

Word of last week’s attack spread quickly and by 4 p.m. Wednesday many people who knew Ridge from Sonoma Valley schools or around local watering holes gathered at Olde Sonoma Public House near Sierra Way.

“People just started throwing down Twenties,” said bartender Brian Scanlan, as he rushed to fill pints for a room full of regulars. “All these people came in, so upset, saying, ‘He’s our people.’ ”

By midnight, the bar’s staff had collected about $1,200 for Ridge’s family and since have collected more than $2,400 that they plan to deliver to him.

Notes of encouragement nearly filled a card with a dancing Snoopy near the cash register Monday.

Dave Aguilar of the local rock band Tudo Bem stopped by on his way home from work Monday to offer to play a benefit concert.

“We always see him cruising around on his bike,” said Aguilar, 56, a special education teacher at the Sonoma Developmental Center. “When I heard what happened … it’s just so horrendous.”

Scanlan, a longtime bartender in the valley, said he’s known Ridge since the young man turned 21.

“There just couldn’t be a nicer kid,” Scanlan said. “There is not a mean bone in his body.”

Outside on the bar’s porch, friends and acquaintances from the bar or from childhood sorted through rumors about the unknown attackers.

“I don’t see why anyone would want to hurt him,” said Andrea Caudill, 24, who knows Ridge through friends at the pub.

“It’s disgusting,” said Aisah Buffalo, 28, of Sonoma who has known Ridge since they played Little League together.

Ridge was an easy-going guy who “always brushed things off his shoulder,” said Kully Garcia, 26, of Sonoma.

“I thought, he doesn’t need that, he’s been through so much,” Garcia said.

Basurto asked anyone with information to call detectives at 565-2121.

You can reach Staff Writers Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com and Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com.

Writer Spotlight

Dianne Reber Hart is our Sonoma correspondent.

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