When two armed men wearing ski masks broke into a Morro Bay home in 2009, the men inside reacted with physical force. The altercation that ensued left one of the intruders wounded and the other dead.
The trial in San Luis Obispo Superior Court against Luke Austin Waite, 22, who’s accused of murder by a provocative act, started on Friday and continued Monday with riveting testimony from some of the victims. It continues today before Judge Ginger Garrett.
Waite, of Los Osos, is accused of barging into a home on Seaview Avenue near Hillview Avenue with an accomplice, Jason Matthew Graves, a 22-year-old transient. Graves died after being struck by bullets during the incident on April 8, 2009.
Waite has pleaded not guilty to several charges, including attempted robbery, attempted murder and murder by provocation in the death of his alleged accomplice.
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He is being held at County Jail without bail.
Both intruders wore black clothes and ski masks, and were armed with guns, said 22-year-old Seth Terrazas, a key witness for the prosecution who testified Monday.
Terrazas and five friends were inside the home when the gunmen stormed in after 10 p.m. The friends had barbecued that day, played poker, and were coloring eggs for Easter for neighbors’ children when the invasion took place, according to testimony from witnesses.
Terrazas said the men shouted that they were police and told him and his friends to get against the wall, but he realized they weren’t officers.
Within seconds, Terrazas tackled one of the intruders, grabbed the man’s wrist with one hand and his throat with the other, and pinned him to the ground, straddling him.
During the struggle, Terrazas testified a shot went off that didn’t strike anyone. Terrazas then began twisting his wrist into the intruder’s torso, squeezing the man’s finger against the trigger. A bullet struck a masked man in the torso. Terrazas later identified him as Waite.
Terrazas said he had already heard shots going off outside.
Terrazas then turned his attention to the door, where the second intruder appeared with a gun at his side. With the gun he’d seized, Terrazas said he fired a shot at that man’s torso.
“I saw him stagger,” Terrazas testified. “I was reasonably sure I’d struck him.”
Terrazas said he fired one more shot at Waite and ran outside and fired a second shot at the second man. He didn’t say whether those second shots hit the intruders. Police arrived shortly thereafter.
Another man in the home at the time, Christopher Sidebottom, testified that he ran as fast as he could past the men to outside the home when they went in.
“I busted out,” Sidebottom said. “My first reaction was just to bolt by them.”
Sidebottom said he ran to tell neighbors to call 911, and when he returned he saw one of his friends bear-hugging a masked man in the carport. Sidebottom said that he tried to help his friend, but he was shot in the process.
“No vital organs were hit,” Sidebottom said. “It took me two months to recover.”
Sidebottom said he was struck in the side of his torso.
Both Sidebottom and Terrazas said they’d smoked marijuana earlier in the day. Sidebottom also estimated that he drank about a six-pack of beer between noon and 10 p.m. the day of the incident.
Both witnesses said they didn’t think their intoxication affected their ability to remember the events.
Defense attorney Gael Mueller tried to poke holes in the witnesses’ recollection, asking questions about their inebriation and ability to differentiate between “suspect No. 1” and “suspect No. 2” when describing the sequence of actions.