SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) — The FBI and local investigators are trying to determine a possible link between the ambush-style killing of a Northern California sheriff’s deputy Saturday night and that of a federal officer who was fatally shot outside the U.S. courthouse in Oakland more than a week ago.
The FBI office in San Francisco confirmed Sunday its investigators were working with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department to determine a possible motive and links to other crimes committed in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the attack that killed a Federal Protection Service officer and critically wounded another officer on May 29. Both involved shooters in a van.
An active-duty U.S. Air Force sergeant has been arrested on suspicion of fatally shooting Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, 38, and wounding two other officers Saturday.
Gutzwiller “was a beloved figure here at the sheriff’s office,” Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said.
“Damon showed up today to do his job, to keep this community safe, and his life was taken needlessly,” a visibly shaken Hart said.
On Saturday, deputies responded to a 911 call around 1:30 p.m. about a suspicious van in Ben Lomond — an unincorporated area near Santa Cruz. The caller said there were guns and bomb-making devices inside, Hart said.
When deputies arrived, the van pulled away and the deputies followed. The van went down a driveway at a home, and the deputies were ambushed by gunfire and explosives after getting out of their vehicle.
Gutzwiller was wounded and later died at a hospital. Another deputy was wounded by gunfire or shrapnel and struck by a vehicle as the suspect fled. A third officer from the California Highway Patrol was shot in his hand, Hart said.
The suspect, 32-year-old Steven Carrillo, attempted a carjacking and also was shot during his arrest, Hart said. He was being treated at the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.
Hart said Carrillo will be charged with first-degree murder.
Carrillo had arrived at Travis Air Force Base, 50 miles (81 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco, in June 2018 and was a member of the 60th Security Forces Squadron, a base spokesman said.
Carrillo’s wife Monika Leigh Scott Carrillo, who was also in the Air Force, was found dead in an off-base hotel in May 2018 while she was stationed in South Carolina. She was 30. Her death was investigated by the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, in coordination with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and ruled a suicide, according to the Air Force.
The FBI has been trying to identify a suspect and motive in the drive-by shooting outside the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building that killed Dave Patrick Underwood, 53, and critically wounded another contracted security officer employed by the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service. They had been monitoring a nearby protest over the death of George Floyd.
Surveillance cameras captured a white Ford van believed to be driven by the shooter or shooters. The FBI said the vehicle did not appear to have license plates.
Gov. Gavin Newsom extended condolences to Gutzwiller’s family and ordered flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff in honor of the slain deputy.
“He will be remembered as a hero who devoted his life to protecting the community and as a loving husband and father,” Newsom said in a statement.
The shooting shocked Ben Lomond, a town of about 6,000 people tucked up in the Santa Cruz mountains.
Resident Kathy Crocker brought a bouquet to the sheriff’s office as Hart gave a news conference about the shootings.
“It just breaks my heart that this keeps happening,” she said, as teary-eyed deputies entered the building.
Hundreds of people, including Gutzwiller’s young son and widow, attended a vigil Sunday at 2:26 p.m., the time authorities received the call the day before that he had been shot. There was a long applause when the sheriff acknowledged the community’s support for law enforcement officers.
Hart said Gutzwiller never had a citizen’s complaint in his 14 years with the department, and praised the sergeant’s community approach to policing.
“He was kind, patient, caring, empathetic. He can take enforcement action when he needed to, but he would rather communicate his way through any problem that was in front of him,” Hart said.
This story has been corrected to reflect that the suspect is 32, not 38.