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August 11, 2022

Carrillo pleads guilty to Gutzwiller killing

SANTA CRUZ—The man who shot a Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s sergeant to death—days after killing a federal building security guard in Oakland during a crime spree two years ago—pleaded guilty Monday to the local charges.

Steven Carrillo, 33, a former U.S. Air Force sergeant, will be sentenced on Aug. 26 to life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller. He also pled guilty to nine felonies, including the attempted murder of four other law enforcement officials and one civilian.

Carrillo made the appearance remotely from Alameda County Superior Court—he was being held in the Santa Rita Jail there prior to trial—which was expected to be a routine date-setting conference. 

The charges stem from June 6, 2020 when sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to a report of a man acting suspiciously on a turnout near Jamison Creek Road about five miles north of Boulder Creek. The deputies believed that the man’s van contained bomb-making materials.

Deputies followed Carrillo to his Ben Lomond home, where he shot at Gutzwiller and another deputy with an AR-15 rifle as they approached his home. Police say that Carrillo also ignited at least one bomb, injuring another deputy and a California Highway Patrol officer and triggering a massive law response from multiple counties.

Carrillo also admitted in court to being a member of the Grizzly Scouts, a militia group that espoused the Boogaloo ideology, which revolves around the desire for a second civil war and a violent overthrow of the government.

“Our hearts go out to all Santa Cruz County law enforcement officers affected by the horrific events … in particular the Gutzwiller family,” Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosell said in a prepared statement. “Although nothing can bring Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller back, we hope that today can bring some measure of justice for everyone touched by this tragedy.” 

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said he has mixed emotions about the verdict. Still, the sentence does bring a measure of relief for Gutzweiller’s partner, the Sheriff’s Office and the community.

“In order for us to move on I think it’s going to be a good disposition when he gets sentenced in August,” Hart said. “The good news for all of us is that he will never be released. He will spend the rest of his life in state prison.”

The Oakland killing

Carrillo and accomplice Robert Justus also fatally shot a federal security officer and injured another, both of whom were guarding the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Oakland on May 29. Justus surrendered five days later.

Investigators believe that Justus, a Millbrae resident, drove a white van past the courthouse, while Carrillo shot two security officers—David Patrick Underwood, who died, and one of Underwood’s colleagues, who was injured—out of the van’s open sliding passenger-side door.

Carrillo used a privately made rifle with no markings or serial number that had a silencer on the barrel, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Detectives later searched a vehicle registered to Carrillo and found evidence that Carrillo was part of a group of the Boogaloo Bois.

He was sentenced on June 3 to 41 years in federal prison. Justus is still facing trial.

Carrillo must serve the state sentence before the four-decade federal sentence begins.

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