Seattle police say Samuel Smith, 27, was fatally shot after he rammed into a patrol, fled and then ran toward an officer with a 16-inch knife. The shooting was captured on dash-cam video released Friday evening.
When Yolanda Cardenas awoke to three short pops outside her apartment around 4:30 a.m. Friday, she assumed it was firecrackers — typically the most exciting thing to disturb her quiet Ravenna neighborhood in the middle of the night — and tried to go back to sleep.
But her partner thought the noise might have been gunshots.
Moments later, police cars started swarming into their neighborhood, said Cardenas, 39. The couple watched from their window as Seattle police officers put up yellow crime tape 50 yards down the street.
“Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,” Cardenas remembers thinking. “I didn’t know what was going on.”
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The gunshots that rattled her neighborhood were fired by a police officer who killed a man after he is believed to have rammed a patrol car driven by another officer. The man, identified as Samuel Smith, 27, died at the scene.
According to police, an officer saw the car believed to have been in the hit-and-run in the Ravenna neighborhood about a half-hour after the crash.
As the officer approached the car, Smith ran at the officer while holding a large knife. Despite an order to “drop the knife,” Smith continued toward the officer and the officer opened fire from close range.
Police released dash-cam video from the shooting as well as the hit-and run, and the footage contained graphic images. (WARNING: The video contains graphic images.)
“The officer fired several shots and the suspect is now deceased,” police Capt. Sean O’Donnell said at the scene Friday morning. “He was shot while standing in the street.”
The King County Medical Examiner’s Office said the cause of death was multiple gunshots.
Police also released a photo of the 16-inch knife they say Smith was holding.
Smith is believed to have rammed the gray Mazda 3 he was driving into an officer’s car on southbound Interstate 5 shortly after 4 a.m., sending the patrol car into the freeway median before Smith sped away.
Police said investigators were able to determine from pieces of the vehicle left at the crash site that the car was likely a gray Mazda.
After the hit-and-run, officers flooded the area looking for a small dark car with front-end damage, O’Donnell said. Officers converged on the Ravenna neighborhood after pieces of plastic and debris were found near Northeast 65th Street and a gray Mazda was spotted in the 6500 block of Ravenna Avenue Northeast.
“The damage (to the car) is consistent with that accident scene,” O’Donnell said at a news conference in Ravenna on Friday morning.
Smith lived in an apartment in the 10700 block of Burke Avenue North, about one mile from where the shooting occurred, according to records. A neighbor said that he did not know Smith but said police had spent Friday “crawling all over the apartments.”
Court documents show that Smith had been charged with driving under the influence, possession of marijuana and negligent driving in 2007. He doesn’t appear to have any other criminal history in Washington state.
The officer involved in the shooting will be placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation, police said. The police officer involved in the hit-and-run was taken to Harborview Medical Center and later released without any serious injuries.
Department policy dictates that the incident will be investigated and reviewed by detectives from the Force Investigation Team and Crime Scene and representatives from the Office of Professional Accountability, police said.
Police are collaborating with the Washington State Patrol to investigate the hit-and- run, which had resulted in the closure of multiple freeway lanes during much of the morning commute.
Sean Lutterman, an employee at Bagel Oasis on 65th Street, said he was walking to work around 4:30 a.m. when he saw cruisers go by.
“It wasn’t something I’m used to,” he said.
He then “heard the shots and a shout and saw all the sirens go off.”
As he arrived at the corner, he “saw five or so officers in shooting position … I just kept walking and tried not to get hit by all the cruisers out here.”
Tracy Stubbs, who just moved to the neighborhood seven weeks ago from Memphis, Tenn., said she was awaked by hearing “at least three” gunshots.
She said she told her daughter to get down from the windows because they didn’t know what was happening.
“I had no clue where it was coming from,” she said. “It’s a little unsettling.”
After the shooting, Cardenas called in sick to work and turned on the news. As she learned more about the incident, she said she grew more and more relieved.
“Knowing what happened, it’s a different case. It’s not like people were goofing around or doing things on this particular street,” Cardenas said. “I’m just trying to relax for now.”