An ambush-style attack on two sheriff's deputies in the Santa Cruz Mountains on Saturday afternoon may be linked to a similar ambush attack on a pair of federal security guards in Oakland during protests on May 29. In both cases, one officer was killed and another was wounded, and an Air Force security officer stationed at Travis Air Force Base has been arrested.
As of Sunday, the FBI had joined the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office in investigating the Saturday attack, which involved a barrage of gunfire and the use of improvised explosives. The suspect, identified as 32-year-old Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Carrillo, was a member of the Air Force's elite “Raven” security unit, as KPIX reports. That unit, which requires a special training course, specializes in various use-of-force techniques as well as "cross-cultural awareness, legal considerations, embassy operations, explosive ordnance awareness and more."
Sheriff's deputies were called to the small mountain town of Ben Lomond around 1:30 p.m. Saturday following a report of a suspicious white van. As the Chronicle reports, a witness described seeing weaponry and bomb-making materials inside the van.
The deputies began pursuing the van as it was seen leaving the area, and as Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart explained in a dramatic Saturday evening press conference, the van then stopped at a home on Waldeberg Avenue in Ben Lomond. The two officers were then "ambushed with gunfire and improvised explosive devices."
Sheriff's Sergeant Damon Gutzwiller, 38, was fatally shot, and the second officer was wounded either by gunfire or shrapnel, and then struck by the van as it fled the scene.
Carrillo then, shortly thereafter, "engaged" with a CHP officer, according to Hart, and the officer was then shot in the hand. Carrillo then made his way on foot to the parking lot of a nearby cannabis dispensary on Highway 9 in Ben Lomond, Redwood Coast Dispensary, where he can be seen in surveillance footage (starting around the 1:50 mark) attempting to carjack one vehicle while carrying a large assault rifle. Per the Chronicle, Carrillo had allegedly already tried to carjack one man's vehicle who can also be seen running across the parking lot away from him.
Unseen in the video is a woman in the passenger seat of the vehicle Carrillo gets into. He hopped out after she screamed according to witness and dispensary owner Patrick McCue, and he then apparently apologized to her.
Carrillo allegedly told McCue he was "in a jam" and needed a car, and McCue told him he couldn't help him. He also heard Carrillo say, "I’m really just fed up with the duality of it all."
"Otherwise, he didn’t send me any signals that he was a threat," McCue tells the Chronicle.
According to Air Force records, Carrillo's wife, Monika Leigh Scott Carrillo, died by suicide at the age of 30 in a South Carolina hotel two years ago. At the time she was stationed at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, but she otherwise lived with Carrillo and their two children in Boulder Creek, in Santa Cruz County.
Federal authorities have for the last ten days been searching for a white van out of which shots were fired at two federal security officers working for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) outside the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland on the night of May 29. The van, which lacked license plates, was identified as a a 1997-2002 Ford E-250 or E-350 Cargo Van. DHS issued a statement calling the shooter an "assassin," and characterizing the act as "domestic terrorism." At the time of the shooting it was unclear if there may be some connection to the massive demonstration going a few blocks away near City Hall, though Oakland police said the day after they did not believe there was.
The shooting claimed the life of Federal Protective Services Officer David Underwood, 53, of Pinole.
The killing of Sgt. Gutzwiller has rocked the Santa Cruz community, and the 14-year veteran of the sheriff's department and Aptos High School grad has been called a "beloved figure" in the department. A father of one, Gutzwiller was expecting another child in just a few weeks, and friends and community members gathered for a vigil on Sunday to remember him — some of them carrying "Blue Lives Matter" signs.