The man who was behind the wheel of the white van out of which former Air Force Sergeant Steven Carrillo fatally shot a federal security guard during a night of George Floyd protests in downtown Oakland in late May 2020 has been found guilty of murder.
33-year-old Robert Alvin Justus Jr. of Millbrae went to trial for his role in the death of Federal Protective Service Officer David Patrick Underwood, a year after Carrillo pleaded guilty in federal court to being the shooter. Justus and Carrillo were not friends and only met in person on the day of the killing, but they knew each other online through a community of followers of the loosely affiliated "Boogaloo" or "Boogaloo Bois" movement.
As discussed here before, followers of this movement in recent years have been known to exchange joke-y memes that denigrate federal law enforcement in particular, and the basic purpose of the movement is to foment a second American Civil War. Many current and former members of the military have reportedly aligned themselves with this movement, which anticipates an ultimate armed conflict with the government.
Carrillo, an apparently mentally unstable member of the military whose wife and childhood sweetheart had committed suicide in 2018, was an enthusiastic supporter of the Boogaloo ideology — and before accepting medication for a mental illness while in prison in 2020, he gave a defiant interview to PBS's Frontline in which he expressed no remorse for Underwood's death, or the subsequent fatal shooting of Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Sergeant Damon Gutzwiller a week later, the day he was apprehended.
Justus turned himself in to the FBI in San Francisco immediately after Carrillo's arrest and Gutzwiller's murder, a fact that worked against him in court.
At trial, according to the East Bay Times, Justus claimed that he was an unwilling participant in the events of May 29, 2020. He testified that Carrillo had a gun to his head at some point as he drove the van that belonged to Carrillo, and that he'd succeeded in dissuading Carrillo from shooting down a police helicopter, and from shooting a bus driver that same night.
But federal prosecutors showed surveillance video that showed Justus helping to case out the area around the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building before the shooting, and argued successfully that he could have fled at any point but rather stayed to carry out the plan.
Memes and other posts Justus made on social media worked against his defense as well — despite not having a similar background to Carrillo, he appeared to have wholeheartedly adopted the Boogaloo mindset and claimed online to have a "bloodlust for police." While he tried to join up with the paramilitary group Carrillo belonged to with some other individuals from Santa Cruz, known as the Grizzly Scouts, Justus was the only person who volunteered to join Carrillo on the night of May 29, saying "Let's boogie" in an online message.
Two days earlier, according to the FBI, on May 27, Justus "posted an image depicting a police officer being shot in the head with a caption reading 'Speak to cops in a language they understand.'" Prosecutors also say that Justus tried to destroy evidence of his communications with Carrillo immediately after the shooting.
Carrillo had been encouraging other Boogaloo followers to commit acts of violence against law enforcement under the cover of the protests going on at the time.
Justus now faces a potential life sentence. His sentencing hearing has been scheduled for February 24, 2024.
Top image: Justus (right) in a mug shot beside Carrillo (left).