A 15-year-old on LSD stabbed his father and uncle multiple times early Saturday morning in Corralitos (CA), leading to officers from two departments and deputies from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department to try to take him into custody.
Luke Smith was still armed with a knife with a 4″ blade as officers tried to negotiate with him, then used an array of less lethals against him including multiple baton rounds from a 40mm launcher and several taser deployments, along with the deployment of a K-9.
Smith was un-phased by the dog, the half-dozen baton rounds, or either taser strike, and raised his knife arm towards one of the officers attempting to take him into custody, leading one of the officers to fire a single shot from an AR-15 patrol rifle to defend his fellow officer.
A mother of one of Smith’s friends doesn’t think that officer’s did enough to try to take him into custody before the Deputy Chris Vigil fired the fatal shot.
“What was their rush? Why were they in such a hurry at 3 in the morning. They didn’t have time to talk him down?” she asked. “He must have been terrified, chasing him with dogs, possibly a victim of abuse. Who isn’t going to run from police officers with guns?”
While she struggles to help her sons and Luke’s friends cope with the situation, the Aptos mother and Opheim said they want to organize to stop this from happening again.
Opheim wrote, “There needs to be a change! When it is OK to shoot a boy with no gun and police officers and police dogs all over the place? This was not the time.
“We will do all we can to get justice.”
Smith attacked the friend he did LSD with before stabbing his father and his uncle multiple times.
Officers and deputies tried to calmly talk him down using reassuring tones, well aware of the fact he was on LSD. They clearly tried to help him, as the released body camera footage from several officers and deputies makes clear.
Officers attempted to get him to drop the knife and warned him to keep his distance when he got too close with the knife still in his hand. They then used baton rounds from a 40mm launcher—which feels roughly like getting hit with a fastball—to try to get him to stop his advance and drop the knife.
It only worked temporarily.
A total of six baton rounds were fired at Smith, one even striking his knife hand, and he shrugged them all off. Twice tasers were deployed, and they had no effect. Even the K-9, Kato, had no effect on Smith due to the LSD. When Smith raised his knife towards an officer, Deputy Vigil fired one shot center mass to stop the threat. When Smith wilted to the ground, he did not fire any additional rounds.
Officers on the scene tried their best to help Smith, but there isn’t a whole heck of a lot they can do when a .223 bullet hits a human body at approximately 2,900 feet per second from a range of just feet and fragments in the chest cavity.
It’s very sad that Luke Smith chose to abuse drugs. It’s horrific that he became incredibly violent and attacked three people, stabbing two of them multiple times. It’s infuriating that the LSD’s effect on this teen was so strong that attempts to use logic, and reason and eight attempts at less lethals and two attempts at using a K-9 to take him into custody failed.
It was not the intention of any of these officers when they went on shift Saturday night to take a life, and the video from their body cameras makes it very clear that they were doing all they could to try to take a dangerously violent young man into custody peacefully.
In the end, Deputy Vigil was forced to fire to protect a fellow officer when he perceived that Luke Smith was about to stab his third victim of the night.
It’s a sad chain of events, but responsibility for Luke Smith’s death lies with his decision to abuse powerful mind-altering drugs.