On Thursday April 14, 1983, at approximately 6 a.m., Sheriff’s narcotics officers and members of the department’s special weapons team (SEB) served a search warrant at an address on the 3400 block of Robinette Avenue in Baldwin Park. The one-story house was surrounded by a concrete block fence and all the windows barred by wrought-iron.
When they were denied entry by the 52-year-old homeowner, one deputy crept forward and attached a 100-foot rope to the iron covering one of the large windows and then a four-wheel-drive vehicle yanked off the protective iron shroud. An SEB team quickly moved up and smashed the window and entered the house. The first three members of the team met no resistance, but when Sergeant Smith entered, the suspect came out of a side room and opened fire with an automatic pistol striking him in the head and neck. The other three deputies shot and killed the gunman then gathered up their fallen sergeant and hastily retreated. Tear gas was then tossed into the house and the man’s 11, 15 and 17-year-old children exited weeping and coughing on the tear gas and were taken into protective custody.
Smith, 40, was transported to Queen of the Valley Hospital in West Covina. He was taken off of life support the morning of April 16 and died a short time later. With him when he passed were his wife, Sylvia, his parents, brother and three children.
The narcotics search warrant was obtained because the man who shot Smith was believed to be dealing heroin out of his home. No narcotics were found, but three firearms were recovered. In April 1984 the family sued the Sheriff’s Department seeking $2 million in damages, the return of $2,500 in cash, the handguns and other property seized during the raid.
Sources: Los Angeles Times, ODMP