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Santa Cruz County: Man suspected of killing Sheriff’s deputy on active duty in Air Force – The Mercury News

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SANTA CRUZ — Investigators worked Sunday to find out what led an active-duty Air Force sergeant to allegedly attack two sheriff’s deputies with guns and explosives, killing one — and whether there were any links to the killing of a federal security guard in Oakland more than a week earlier.

Air Force authorities confirmed Sunday that the man under arrest in the ambush, 32-year-old Steven Carrillo, was on active duty at the time of the shooting. Carrillo joined the 60th Security Forces Squadron at Travis Air Force Base in June 2018, Public Affairs Officer 2nd Lt. Mike Longoria said.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller was killed in the line of duty Saturday evening in Ben Lomond after responding to a report of a suspicious van that had guns and explosives inside. (Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s photo) 

Carrillo is the man who the Sheriff’s office believe was armed with bombs and multiple firearms in the Saturday afternoon attack, killing Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, a 14-year veteran with a pregnant wife and a young child.

A source in the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed that investigators were examining possible links between the Saturday attack and the killing of a federal security officer in Oakland late last month. Both incidents involved a white van.

As the case advanced, the department and the community were left mourning a deputy struck down in the prime of his life.

“In my 32-year career, this is the worst day that I’ve ever experienced,” Sheriff Jim Hart said Saturday. He described Gutzwiller as “compassionate, caring, somebody who truly loves his job, he wants to help people. That’s who Damon was.

“I watched him grow into a great man and a great police officer. … Damon will be deeply missed by this community, by this family, and by all of us at the sheriff’s office. His legacy will live on in the work that we provide to the Santa Cruz County community.”

The incident began at around 1:30 p.m. Saturday, with a call reporting a white van with guns and bomb-making material visible inside on Jamison Creek Road, near the unincorporated Santa Cruz County area of Boulder Creek. When deputies arrived, they saw the van pulling away.

They attempted to follow it, finally locating the van at a Ben Lomond home, according to Hart. There, he said, deputies were ambushed with gunfire and improvised explosives.

Gutzwiller was shot and transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The second deputy was either shot or struck by shrapnel and was struck by a car as the suspect fled the property. The deputy who was critically injured was still being treated Saturday night, Hart said, adding that “we hope he’s going to be OK.”

Soon after the ambush, authorities received calls of a carjacking nearby as officers from departments across Santa Cruz County arrived to the area.

Carrillo allegedly engaged with, and then fled from, responding CHP officers and attempted to carjack another vehicle, according to Hart. Officers from multiple departments located and apprehended Carrillo.

“There’s a lot that we don’t know at this point,” Hart said. “I ask that the community be patient as we go through this investigation and the grieving process.”

Carrillo remained at a hospital Sunday and was expected to be criminally charged in coming days with murder and several other felony charges.

Police have not ruled out the possibility that others were involved.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department mug shot of suspect Steven Carrillo who was arrested Saturday, June 6, on suspicion of fatally shooting a sheriff’s deputy in the Santa Cruz Mountains town of Ben Lomond. 

On Sunday afternoon, agents from the FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as CHP officers, could be seen investigating the area around a Ben Lomond home believed to be Carrillo’s, on Hubbard Gulch Road.

Travis AFB spokesman Longoria said he did not know if Carrillo had any special weapons training or bomb training. He said the duties of a staff sergeant in his squadron would have been “working the gate, patrolling the site line” and other “standard security forces functions.”

Longoria said he did not know of any disciplinary actions on Carrillo’s record and was working with his unit leadership to get that information. He said his office was working to get more information about any previous administrative actions on Carrillo’s record, though he added those “would not be generally releasable” to the public.

Gutzwiller is the first Santa Cruz deputy to be killed in the line of duty since 1983, when Deputy Michael A. Gray was shot and killed by a homeless man.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. Santa Cruz Sentinel staff writer Nick Ibarra contributed to this report.

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