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July 18, 2024

Carrillo sentenced to life in prison without parole

SANTA CRUZ—The man who slaughtered Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller during a violent crime spree two years ago was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

Steven Carrillo, 34, also received prison time for attempting to kill four other law enforcement officials during the June 6, 2020 event.

Carrillo was also convicted earlier this year for killing security officer Pat Underwood in Oakland in May 2020, and was handed a 41-year federal sentence in June.

He pleaded guilty to the local charges on June 27.

Because he struck a plea bargain that allowed him to serve the new sentence concurrently with the new one—rather than having them run consecutively—he forever gave up his right to appeal the sentence.

During the roughly 90-minute hearing in a packed Santa Cruz County Superior Courtroom, Carrillo sat between public defense attorneys Mark Briscoe and Larry Biggam, staring straight ahead and showing no emotion as several people addressed the court about how the incident affected their lives.

Speaking in a voice barely above a whisper, Gutzwiller’s partner, Fabiola Del Real, described the moment someone knocked on her door to tell her Gutzwiller had been killed.

faviola del real
Faviola del Real, who was the partner of Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, delivers her statement to the court at the sentencing. Photo: Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

“That was the beginning of this nightmare that has become the reality of my life,” she said.

She went on to describe their son—who was then 2—constantly asking when his dad was coming home from work.

“I can’t believe I will never be able to hug him again or touch him or tell him I love him,” she said. 

CHP officer Louise Rodriguez, who was one of the first law enforcement officials on the scene, told the court she has spent “countless sleepless nights” since the incident, and frequently asks herself what she could have done differently.

“The what-ifs are what hurt the most,” she said.

In her statement, Rodriguez called Carrillo “cowardly and selfish,” a sentiment echoed by many of the people who addressed the court.

“You will not be remembered,” she told Carrillo. “You will leave no legacy.”

The incident

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. Callers said they saw bomb-making materials.

Deputies followed Carrillo to his Ben Lomond home, where he shot Gutzwiller and at 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 has 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.

Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeff Rosell said Carrillo’s crime spree shattered the Gutzwiller family and has had a deep and abiding impact on the entire community.

“Santa Cruz County was rocked to its core on June 6, 2020, and it will never be the same,” Rosell said. 

“This will never go away,” he said. “And for what? For what? For absolutely nothing.”

Rosell said that the survivors “lived out heir worst nightmare” as they took gunfire and explosions from the bombs Carrillo threw.

“They believed they were going to die,” he said. 

“We can take some comfort in the fact that Steven Carrillo will die behind bars where he belongs, but June 6, 2020 will be a day we will never forget, and we will never be the same,” Rosell said.

Sam Patzke, a Ben Lomond resident credited with disarming Carrillo, told the court that Carrillo espoused his political beliefs during their interaction, and pointed his homemade AR-15 rifle at Patzke’s chest. Carrillo also attempted to draw a pistol and to blow up the both of them with a pipe-bomb before Patzke tackled him.

sam patzske
Sam Patzske of Ben Lomond, known as John Doe 3 until Friday, reads his statement in court. He was praised by the court for engaging Steven Carrillo following an ambush by Carrillo, disarming him and aiding in his arrest. Photo: Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

Patzke says that Carrillo has never expressed remorse for the killings, and in an interview last year described police officers as “attack dogs.”

“He’s a narcissist who decided that he alone knows the truth, and is prepared to kill to prove his point,” he said.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Deputy Alex Spencer—who was severely injured when Carrillo shot him—described in a written statement read by his wife the moment when Carrillo later struck him with his vehicle.

“I saw pure evil and hatred in his eyes,” the statement said.

Sheriff’s deputy Emma Ramponi, who was also at the scene, described Carrillo as a “terrorist” and an “evil murderer.”

In addition to a sentence of life without parole, Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Paul Burdick handed down three sentences of 15 years to life for attempting to kill two Sheriff’s deputies and two CHP officers. He also got a life sentence for trying to kill Patzke.

Todd Guild
Todd Guild
General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA. https://pajaronian.com/r-p-reporter-honored-by-csba/

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