Four men who were part of a group WhatsApp chat with accused murderer Steven Carrillo — the man who is accused of targeting and fatally shooting a federal security guard in Oakland last May and subsequently a Santa Cruz sheriff's deputy — have pleaded guilty to obstructing the federal probe against Carrillo and his alleged accomplice.
We learned back in April that the government had brought charges against four members of the so-called "1st Detachment, 1st California Grizzly Scouts" — a loosely organized but established militia group associated with the far-right, internet meme-obsessed Boogaloo movement. And we later learned that the group was actually a self-defined subset of the movement, but equally bent on violence against federal law enforcement figures and law enforcement in general, hoping to be part of a "second civil war" in which such militias take down the federal government. (The name "Boogaloo" started with a joking reference to the 1980s breakdancing sequel Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, which many on the internet have joked was almost exactly a copy of the original.)
The four men are 29-year-old Jessie Rush of Turlock; 23-year-old Simon Ybarra of Los Gatos; 21-year-old Kenny Miksch of San Lorenzo; and 33-year-old Robert Blancas, who was listed as a transient with no hometown. As Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair announced in a release today, all four men admitted to being part of the Grizzly Scouts, to participating in "group meetings for firearms training and other purposes," and to encouraging each other and Carrillo to destroy communications and other documents related to their activities in the wake of the May 29, 2020 murder of David Patrick Underwood outside the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland.
Additionally, Blancas has pleaded guilty to enticing a 15-year-old girl to take and send him explicit photos of herself.
Carrillo, along with alleged accomplice Robert Justus Jr., is accused of killing Underwood during the second night of George Floyd protests in downtown Oakland, alleging looking to use the protests as subterfuge for the group's goal of harming law enforcement.
On June 6, 2020, while Carrillo was engaged in a shootout with two law enforcement officers in Ben Lomond, in Santa Cruz County, he apparently texted the Grizzly Scouts chat group and said "Dudes i offed a fed." After this message, Blancas says he told Carrillo to delete data on his phone and he instructed other members to delete communications and documents as well.
In June, a Santa Cruz Sentinel reporter dug further into the charging documents against the four men and found the enticement charge against Blancas. The documents detailed how the group had an online document titled "Operations Order" in which they discussed law enforcement as "enemy forces," and how they had a strategy of trying to appear as members of Antifa when committing acts of violence. "It’s the tactically sound option," Blancas texted the group, according to prosecutors. "Them fucking each other up only helps us."
The four men will now face sentencing later this year or early next year. Blancas faces up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $500,000 — 20 years for the obstruction charges and 10 years for the enticement charge. The other three men face up to 20 years and $250,000 fines on the obstruction charges.
Top image: Members of the "boogaloo boys" join other gun rights advocates in front of the State House as pro-gun supporters gather on January 18, 2021 in Richmond, Virginia. The event, which is taking place on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, is also known in Richmond as Lobby Day for the tradition of Virginia citizens coming to the capital to petition legislators at the start of the General Assembly session. This year’s event is taking place in the tense atmosphere following the storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)