The former Air Force Sergeant who terrorized both Santa Cruz and Oakland almost exactly two years ago this week, on a violent tear inspired by the internet-based Boogaloo movement to kill members of law enforcement, is set to be sentenced for one of his murders.
Steven Carrillo, 33, took a plea deal in February, pleading guilty to the killing of federal protective service officer David Patrick Underwood outside the Oakland federal building. Carrillo recruited an accomplice to drive a van into Oakland on May 29, 2020 (seen above), a night of civil unrest in the wake of the death of George Floyd, and plotted to shoot a law enforcement officer, hoping the crime would be blamed on Black Lives Matter protesters.
Carrillo, a resident of Ben Lomond in Santa Cruz County, then became the subject of a weeklong manhunt, in the midst of which he also allegedly killed 38-year-old Santa Cruz Sheriff's Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller during a confrontation and chase, after his van was spotted containing weapons.
This case and Carrillo's plea only pertains to the killing of Underwood and the wounding of another federal officer. As the Department of Justice explained in a February release, as part of the plea agreement, Carrillo "admitted that he aligned himself with an anti-government movement and wanted to carry out violent acts against federal law enforcement officers," and "admitted that in the months before the shooting, he regularly discussed and encouraged violence against law enforcement."
Carrillo also confessed to shooting 19 rounds out of the rear side door of a van on May 29 toward the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Oakland, aimed at Underwood and his fellow officer.
"This is a great time to perpetuate the destruction of the government," Carrillo reportedly wrote in online messages to other far-right Boogaloo enthusiasts. "I just wanna perpetuate the hate and violence towards the governments attack dog."
As SFist has reported before, the Boogaloo movement, such as it is, is a disorganized chain of Facebook groups, message threads, and Snapchatters who mostly share memes and jokes denigrating federal law enforcement and gunning for a second American Revolution. (In the ways of internet tropes, "Boogaloo" is a joking reference to the exact-replica sequel of 1980s breakdancing movie Breakin', which was titled Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo — with the second revolution being expected to be like a rehashed sequel.)
Carrillo's philosophies seemed half-baked and spun up by the rhetoric of these groups, and during the deadly ordeal in Santa Cruz County, he scrawled messages in blood before his arrest that said "boog," "stop the duopoly," and the popular catchphrase among libertarians "I became unreasonable" — a reference to anti-government icon Marvin Heemeyer, who bulldozed a town hall in Colorado in a fit of white-guy rage over conflicts over his property not being connected to a sewer system, and then killed himself.
Also allegedly involved with the murder on May 29, 2020 was Millbrae resident Robert Alvin Justus Jr., who was in a Facebook group with Carrillo and otherwise reportedly did not know him prior to that night. Justus has not yet gone to trial as far as we know. Four other individuals who were in chats with Carrillo and Justus and allegedly later tried to obstruct the investigation were charged last year.
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers is set to sentence Carrillo today, and per his plea agreement, he could face up to 41 years in prison. By taking the plea, he avoided the death penalty.
Judge Gonzalez Rogers still may not accept the plea deal, as KTVU notes, depending on whether prosecutors and defense lawyers "do enough to justify the sentence."
Carrillo still must stand trial in Santa Cruz for the murder of Gutzwiller, and as of earlier this year, the DA's office there had not decided whether they would pursue the death penalty.