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October 19, 2021

Alleged killer’s former fellow serviceman speaks out after Ben Lomond shooting

‘It doesn’t matter how nice of a person he was in the past’

As a member of the elite Air Mobility Command 60th security forces—a unit also known as the Phoenix Raven Team—Steven Carrillo was the U.S. Air Force’s version of a Military Police officer.

For a time, one of Carrillo’s jobs was to issue weapons at the beginning of shifts to gate guards and patrol officers, and to collect them at the end of shifts.

That is according to Justin Erhardt, who served with Carrillo in the security forces.

Carrillo is suspected of killing a Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Deputy on June 6, and seriously wounding another one during a short but violent crime spree.

He is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday in Santa Cruz County Superior Court. He is being held in Monterey County Jail. 

As a member of the security forces, Carrillo received training in hand-to-hand combat, anti-terrorism techniques and “verbal judo,” which is the art of using words to de-escalate dangerous situations.

Security force members also receive “extensive training” in recognizing and handling improvised explosive devices, Erhardt said. 

During his arrest, Carrillo was found to be in possession of several homemade bombs, and is accused of lobbing many of them at law enforcement officials, injuring at least one.

Erhardt, who exited the Air Force in 2014, said he was willing to speak to reporters as a way to distance the prestigious unit from Carrillo’s actions.

“He doesn’t reflect our security forces community,” Erhardt said. “Even though we’ve had great experiences with him, as soon as he [carried out] these ambushes and attacks, he lost all bit of respect from us, obviously.”

Erhardt, who runs his own financial planning company, said he kept in touch with Carrillo via Facebook, and spoke with him recently about his financial future. He said that news of the attack came as a bombshell.

While Carrillo made his disdain for police brutality known through Facebook posts over the past few weeks—he is a self-proclaimed Libertarian who is against government involvement and wants to abolish the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms—there was no indication he was considering a violent attack, Erhardt said. 

“It just threw me off like it threw a lot of us off,” he said. “Every single person is shocked by it. A lot of people are saying they are shocked, because he was one of the nicest guys they dealt with when they were stationed with him.”

But in the end, that is irrelevant, Erhardt said.  

“He doesn’t represent our career field at all with his actions,” he said. “I just want to make sure the community knows that, the type of person he is now, it doesn’t matter how nice of a person he was in the past.”

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