A 15-year-old boy took LSD before he stabbed his father and uncle and was fatally shot by a Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputy in a neighborhood north of Watsonville over the weekend, according to sheriff’s officials.
Luke Smith took the drug with a friend before he used a 9-inch knife on his father and uncle at a home in the 800 block of Amesti Road, sheriff’s officials said.
Sheriff Jim Hart said during a news conference at sheriff’s headquarters in Santa Cruz Monday afternoon:
“His actions Saturday morning were out of character.”
It appeared Luke had an adverse reaction to the drug and turned hostile to the friend, who left 15 minutes before the stabbings took place, Hart said:
“In that state of mind he was very dangerous.”
The friend told investigators he took a smaller dose of the drug compared to Luke, according to Hart.
Four people have been arrested for allegedly selling the drug to Luke and his friend, Hart said. The suspects have been identified as Taylor Filson, 28, Bradley Hodge, 24, Thomas Negron, 20, and Nathaniel Trecaso, 28.
Deputies responded to a reported stabbing just before 3 a.m. Saturday when they found the victims who were quickly taken to a hospital for multiple, severe wounds, Hart said.
The father’s lung collapsed and the uncle was stabbed many times in his chest and arm, according to Hart.
Sheriff’s officials played 911 calls taken that morning that offered a description of the suspect. One of the reports came from Luke’s uncle who said he was stabbed near his heart.
Deputies were able to locate Luke armed with a knife near the scene on Pioneer Road about 10 minutes later with help from Watsonville and Capitola police officers, sheriff’s officials said.
Law enforcement officers spent 13 minutes talking to Luke, persuading him to drop the knife and surrender, Hart said.
At one point, Luke climbed over a fence and dropped the knife, but quickly retrieved the weapon, according to Hart.
Deputies and assisting officers also deployed 40mm foam rounds, Taser stun guns and a K9 unit that bit him, but it all had no effect on him, Hart said.
In video footage taken from Vigil’s body-worn camera, the deputy and other officers yelled at Luke to drop the knife. The device fell during the encounter, but was supplemented with video from a Capitola police officer’s body-worn camera that captured the shooting and its aftermath.
Luke threatened the officers, which led Deputy Chris Vigil to fire the single shot that killed the 15-year-old, the sheriff said.
An autopsy showed Luke died from a gunshot wound to the chest, according to Hart.
Luke was fighting with the police K9 while holding the knife in his right hand and seen raising his right arm before the shot was fired, sheriff’s officials said.
The deputy was only able to shoot at Luke’s upper torso because the K-9 and its handler were about 5 feet away from the suspect, Hart said.
Deputies are trained to aim for their target’s center mass, the sheriff said.
About a half-dozen officers who surrounded Luke rendered aid to him after the K9 removed the knife, according to sheriff’s officials.
One of the officers is heard telling the suspect to keep breathing and asking the boy to squeeze his hand.
Vigil has been placed on administrative leave, which is routine in officer-involved shootings, Hart said.
Vigil is a county resident who has nine years of experience in law enforcement working at Santa Cruz police, Atherton police and the sheriff’s office, according to Hart.
The deputy has more than 100 hours of training in various techniques including crisis negotiation, CPR and 21st Century policing concepts, Hart said.
The knife that was recovered from the shooting scene had a 4-inch blade and possibly had blood on it, according to Dr. Lauren Zephro, a forensics services supervisor at the sheriff’s office.
The sheriff’s narcotics team was able to locate the suspects on Saturday evening along with a significant amount of LSD at an alleged dealer’s home, Hart said.
The suspected dealer, Trecaso, was found unconscious, possibly from a drug overdose, and taken to a hospital where he remains today in a coma, according to Hart.
The suspects have been arrested on multiple alleged drug crimes, the sheriff said:
“This was a very unique, difficult and extremely challenging and upsetting situation.”
Luke’s family has been struggling in coping with the incident, Hart said.
Luke was a student at Aptos High School where he was well-liked by everyone, Hart said.
The school is providing grief support for the school community and the sheriff’s office has sent school resource officers on campus to assist with the students, according to Hart.
Hart warned the public of the dangers in taking drugs. Drug treatment centers and law enforcement can’t keep up with the amount of stimulants being made:
“We know some kids are going to take drugs and this community is fairly permissive on that. … When they do take drugs, particularly something like LSD or designer drugs, they really don’t know what they’re taking.”
The county’s District Attorney’s Office will take over the criminal investigation into the deputy-involved shooting while the sheriff’s office will conduct an internal investigation, Hart said.
The sheriff plans to assemble a serious incident review board for the case led by Chief Deputy Craig Wilson along with three use of force instructors and three community members.
A GoFundMe page for a memorial fund benefiting Smith’s family has raised $5,105 of its $15,000 goal as of early this evening. Donations can be made online at https://www.gofundme.com/lukes-memorial-fund.