Air Force Sergeant Makes First Court Appearance in Murder Case of Security Guard

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Santa Cruz men hold posters showing images of slain Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller.
Matthew Rose, left, and Michael Carr, of Santa Cruz County hold posters of slain Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, as they join others outside the Santa Cruz County Sheriff-Coroner's Office to pay their respects in Santa Cruz, California, June 7, 2020. Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Sgt. Gutzwiller, 38, was shot and killed in Ben Lomond, an unincorporated area near Santa Cruz. (AP Photo/Martha Mendoza)

An Air Force staff sergeant accused of killing a federal security guard in Oakland and a Santa Cruz County sheriff's deputy made his first federal court appearance Tuesday in a virtual hearing.

Steven Carrillo, a 32-year-old Ben Lomond resident who was on active duty at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, has been charged with murder and attempted murder of a government employee.

Appearing in a red jumpsuit with his hands in front of him, seen through video from Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, Carrillo remained still as a judge continued his case to Monday morning for identification of counsel and a further status hearing.

He said "yes" twice in response to the judge asking whether he understood his right to counsel and if he generally understood the charges against him and potential penalties. He did not say anything when asked if he understood his right to remain silent.

Carrillo is accused of being the gunman who sprayed a guard shack May 29 in front of the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland, killing 53-year-old David Patrick Underwood and wounding another official.

A week later, Carrillo allegedly ambushed sheriff's deputies in Santa Cruz County who were responding to an abandoned van as they pulled up to his house on a remote, mountainous road. Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, 38, was killed in the attack and several other law enforcement officials were wounded, according to authorities and court records.

Prosecutors in Santa Cruz charged Carrillo with a slew of felonies, including murder and attempted murder in connection to the Ben Lomond incident.

In revealing charges against Carrillo, federal prosecutors linked him to an extremist, anti-government group called the Boogaloo movement.

Experts say the group started in alt-right culture on the internet with the belief that there is an impending civil war. Members and believers of the movement, some of whom call themselves "Boogaloo Bois," are generally younger and more likely to turn to acts of violence than members of other militia-type groups.

Before the attack in Ben Lomond, Carrillo shared a string of posts criticizing police on Facebook.

Authorities accused Carrillo of fatally shooting Underwood from a white van after developing a plot with Robert Alvin Justus Jr., of Millbrae. The pair allegedly drove to Oakland and took advantage of the distraction afforded by protesters marching through the city's downtown in a demonstration against police brutality. Justus is accused of driving the van.

The FBI said Carrillo used white spray paint to disguise the window on the sliding door of his van.

On June 5, the FBI released surveillance photos of a white van they believed was involved in Underwood's shooting.

The next afternoon, Santa Cruz County sheriff's deputies received a call about a suspicious white van abandoned off Jamison Creek Road, on land controlled by a water company. The caller reported seeing ammunition, firearms and bomb-making equipment inside the van.

Around 2:30 p.m., deputies drove up a narrow, twisting road through the Santa Cruz Mountains and arrived at Carrillo's house, where he opened fire and tossed homemade bombs, investigators said.

As he fled, his hip bleeding from a gunshot wound, Carrillo allegedly carjacked a white Toyota Camry. Investigators found the car nearby with Boogaloo-associated words and phrases scrawled in Carrillo's blood on the hood: "BOOG," "I became unreasonable" and "stop the duopoly."

FBI Special Agent in Charge Jack Bennett said in a news conference last week that the investigation was ongoing and there could be more suspects.

"We've lost two law enforcement heroes this month," Bennett said. "Their sacrifice won't ever be forgotten."

This article is written by Alejandro Serrano from San Francisco Chronicle and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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