A man named Steven Carrillo is suspected of shooting and killing a Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Deputy in an ambush attack this past Saturday. A second deputy was shot but survived because the bullet was stopped by his vest. Deputies had been called out to investigate a suspicious white van. They followed the van to a home and that’s when Carrillo (allegedly) started shooting and throwing pipe bombs. Today the San Francisco Chronicle reports on a possible, but still unconfirmed, motive for the attack. In the days prior to the ambush, Carrillo was posting anti-police memes online.
In the 48 hours before Steven Carrillo allegedly shot a Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputy to death in an ambush, the Air Force staff sergeant who led an elite protection unit posted a flurry of Facebook posts that were critical of police brutality and law enforcement’s responses to the Black Lives Matter protests.
“Who needs antifa to start riots when you have the police to do it for you,” Carrillo wrote Friday, sharing a post about tear gas fired at protesters in Richmond, Va.
A friend of Cardillo’s said that his Facebook posts had recently become more political, though he says he never saw him endorse violence.
Posts about reforming police and holding law enforcement officials accountable were typical for Carrillo, but he never condoned violence — on social media or in person, Ehrhardt said. He also shared an anti-fascism screed and gun rights article.
“There was nothing ever to the extent of, ‘They should die,’ or doing anything like that,” Ehrhardt said. “It threw a lot of us off.”
Ehrhardt took screenshots of about a dozen recent posts, which he shared with The Chronicle.
It appears Carrillo last posted at 1:22 p.m. Saturday, minutes before his alleged attack on the deputies. That post shared an anti-fascism image.
After his attack on police officers Saturday, Carrillo went on the run and attempted to carjack several vehicles. Eventually he wound up in someone’s back yard and after he demanded the homeowner’s car keys, the homeowner jumped him. Here’s how Sheriff Hart described it:
“This guy (Carrillo) went into the backyard of a local resident and the local resident confronted him and wanted to know what he was doing on his property,” Hart said. “The suspect told him that — actually he had an AR-15 slung, he was carrying an AR. He told the resident he wanted his car keys. The resident very calmly went into his house, obtained a key and came back out and handed it to him.”
“As the suspect turned around, the resident tackled him and the AR-15 fell away and the resident took this guy to the ground. At that time the suspect reached into his pocket and pulled out a pipe bomb and tried to ignite a pipe bomb while being held down.”
“This resident was able to knock the pipe bomb out of his hand and then the suspect reached into his waistband and pulled out a pistol. There was a wrestling match over the pistol. The resident was able to knock the pistol out of his hand, detain this guy. Multiple other community members from Ben Lomond jumped on this guy and held him until our deputies sheriffs were able to get there and take him into custody.”
The FBI has now taken over the investigation and is investigating a possible connection to an earlier shooting of law enforcement officers that happened in Oakland on May 29th.
The FBI said Sunday it was investigating a connection between Carrillo’s white van and a similar vehicle that may have been used in the fatal shooting of federal protective services officer David Underwood and the wounding of a second officer on May 29 during a night of unrest last week when an Oakland protest over the death of George Floyd turned violent.
“The investigation into the incident in Ben Lomond, Calif. is ongoing,” the FBI said in a statement. “We are working with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department to determine a possible motive and/or links to other crimes committed in the Bay Area, to include the shooting of the FPS officers in Oakland.”
That also hasn’t been confirmed yet but there seems to be a sense that Carrillo may have had some larger plan in mind for all of the pipe bombs he was making. What became the ambush of officers on Saturday may have been an unexpected interruption of that larger plan.
Finally, Sheriff Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller was the man killed in the ambush. He was married with one child and a second child on the way. As this ABC report points out, he had worked for the Sheriff’s office for 14 years and there had never been a complaint about him.