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Suspect in Santa Cruz deputies ambush charged with 19 felonies, sources link him to Oakland police killing

Suspect in Santa Cruz deputies ambush charged with 19 felonies, sources link him to Oakland police killing

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OAKLAND — A U.S. Air Force sergeant suspected of ambushing Santa Cruz deputies was charged Thursday with 19 felonies, including murder, attempted murder, and explosives charges. At the same time, law enforcement sources confirmed he is linked to the killing of a federal officer in Oakland.

In a 14-page affidavit filed in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, Steven Carrillo, 32, was charged with murder in the death of Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller and attempted murder of Deputy Alex Spencer, who was critically injured and remains hospitalized.

In all, Carrillo was charged on Thursday with assaulting a firefighter and trying to kill four officers, and the resident who ultimately pinned him to the ground as he tried to steal his car on his desperate run from police.

Carrillo killed Gutzwiller while “lying in wait” for the officers on Saturday afternoon at his Ben Lomond home and opened fire and lobbed pipe bombs before stealing one vehicle and attempting to carjack several others, the affidavit said. Carrillo was ultimately wrestled to the ground by a nearby, unnamed resident. Carrillo is also charged with the attempted murder of that resident, who grappled away a pipe bomb and firearm from Carrillo before police arrived. Carrillo faces another two attempted murder charges for firing at other deputies during his attempted escape.

Carrillo is also believed to be behind the Oakland shooting a week earlier that claimed the life of Federal Protective Services officer Dave Patrick Underwood, a source close to the investigation confirmed Thursday.

The FBI confirmed early into the Santa Cruz investigation that investigators were probing links between the two incidents. In both incidents, the suspect was seen driving a white van, and both appeared to target law enforcement officers specifically. It isn’t clear if others were involved.

Federal prosecutors are reviewing the Oakland case and are expected to make a filing decision in coming days.

The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment on the investigation into Underwood’s death, citing an open investigation.

Carrillo grew up in the mountain town of Ben Lomond and has been living with his father over the two years since his wife, who was also in the Air Force, committed suicide while in South Carolina on a training program. He was a member of a security squadron at Travis Air Force Base since 2018 and was on active duty at the time of the ambush.

Saturday’s ambush occurred after sheriff’s deputies responded to a call from a concerned citizen about explosives and firearms in a white van in neighboring Boulder Creek. Deputies followed the van to Carrillo’s home up a winding road in Ben Lomond, where the ambush occurred.

Carrillo has two school age children, who are living with his late wife’s parents.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

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