War veteran who said nanobots compelled him to kill stranger is found legally sane

It took a North County jury little more than five minutes to find former Marine Mikahil Schmidt legally sane when he killed a stranger in Oceanside in 2017

It took a San Diego County jury about five minutes to find that an Iraq war veteran was legally sane when he killed a stranger in 2017, rejecting his testimony that he believed that a secret agency had injected nanobots into his brain and compelled him to target the victim.

Mikhail Schmidt, 33, faces the potential of life in prison without parole when he is sentenced next month. The former Marine was living in Oceanside at the time of the killing.

Last week, a jury found Schmidt guilty of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Jacob Bravo, a stranger that Schmidt spotted, followed and later attacked in March 2017. The jury also found true a special circumstance allegation that Schmidt had been lying in wait.

Schmidt had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, meaning, in part, that he was unable to understand at the time of the act that what he was doing was morally and legally wrong.


Mikhail Schmidt in court
Mikhail Schmidt, seated on the left, listens in court last week as a Superior Court jury finds him guilty of first-degree murder in the 2017 death of Jacob Bravo. Seated next to him is defense attorney Brad Patton.
(Teri Figueroa)

The verdict last week prompted a second phase of the trial, in which the jury had to decide whether Schimdt was legally insane at the time of the killing.

On Monday afternoon, after hearing from witnesses, the panel convened to deliberate the sanity issue. A little more than five minutes later, jurors announced they had reached a verdict.

Bravo, a 37-year-old plumber, lived in San Bernardino County but on weeknights was staying in a trailer at the residential construction site where he was working in Oceanside. The site was on Windward Way, two blocks from the beach north of the city’s pier.

Jacob Bravo, 37.
Jacob Bravo, 37.
(Katie Bravo)

During the trial, Schmidt testifiedthat he saw a drunken Bravo walking back to the construction site on the evening of March 8, 2017. Schmidt told the jury he remembered “identifying [Bravo] as the target that Agent Orange wanted me to eliminate.”

Agent Orange, Schmidt said, was the name of a secret government agency that had injected him with nanobots while he was a Marine.

“That night, my nanobots were activated,” Schmidt testified. “Afterward, I knew I am working for this agency now.”

Schmidt testified he did not specifically remember the killing, saying it had been more like a dream. Authorities said he slipped into the trailer and stabbed the sleeping stranger twice in the kidney and once in the neck.

At the start of the trial this month, Schmidt’s attorney, Brad Patton, told the jury that Schmidt had repeatedly suffered head trauma and was twice knocked unconscious while deployed in Iraq for seven months in 2008.

In 2013, Schmidt was honorably discharged as a staff sergeant. He was subsequently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

At the start of the trial, Deputy Dist. Atty. Cal Logan pointed to statements Schmidt made to Oceanside police after his arrest, and said the defendant had carried out the attack for the thrill, “just because he wanted to kill somebody.”

Figueroa writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.