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Calif. sheriff: Citizen aided in apprehending deputy’s accused killer

The man tackled the suspect to the ground after the suspect appeared in the man’s backyard carrying an AR-15 and demanding car keys

Jessica A. York
Santa Cruz Sentinel

LIVE OAK, Calif. — The court arraignment of a 32-year-old Ben Lomond man accused of fatally shooting a Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office deputy and injuring two other law enforcement officers Saturday afternoon is scheduled for Friday.

During a press conference Monday, Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeff Rosell said it was too early to release specifics on the charges that involved the death of Deputy Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, a 14-year veteran of the department. A team of FBI agents is assisting in investigating the case, Rosell said, declining to specify if federal charges may be pending, as well.

Steven Carrillo, actively serving as a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force out of Travis Air Force Base, was himself shot during his apprehension shortly after attacking law enforcement officers, a successful carjacking and several attempted carjackings, Sheriff Jim Hart said.

A citizen 9-1-1 call at 1:30 p.m. referring to a parked van with bomb-making equipment and firearms inside initially drew deputies to Jamison Creek Road in Boulder Creek. Investigating deputies, including Gutzwiller, chased the van to a home on Waldeberg Drive in Ben Lomond, where they were, according to Hart, ambushed by a dangerous and “angry man intent on bringing harm to police officers.”

Hart credited an anonymous Ben Lomond resident with helping to apprehend Carrillo when he appeared in the man’s backyard carrying a semi-automatic AR-15 assault weapon, demanding car keys. The resident, who Hart said did not want to be named, retrieved his key and handed it to Carrillo, Hart said.

“And as the suspect turned around, the resident tackled him and the AR-15 fell away and the resident took this guy to the ground,” Hart said.

Carrillo then reportedly attempted a series of retaliatory measures including trying to light a pipe bomb and pulling out a pistol, with both efforts circumvented by the resident with assistance from neighbors, Hart said.

“It was a remarkable, remarkable heroic thing that that resident did,” Hart said of the resident.

Referring to Carrillo only once by name, Hart also recounted new details of Saturday’s crimes by referring to the man only as “this guy” and “this person.” Hart, elaborating on why he described the encounter as an “ambush,” said Carrillo began shooting and throwing incendiary devices at the deputies from higher ground as soon as they stepped out of their vehicle.

“At that location where Damon was murdered, the FBI and other forensics personnel are finding bomb-making equipment, they’re finding pipe bombs, multiple firearms, a large amount of ammunition,” Hart said of the crime scene. “So, they are going through all of that evidence. It takes a long time to render those types of devices safe.”

A second deputy injured while responding with Gutzwiller remained in hospital care Monday, but was in “good spirits and stable condition,” according to Hart.

“We have not have confirmed yet through ballistics, but it appears that he had been shot in the chest and his vest was able to stop the bullet,” Hart said of the deputy he declined to identify by name. “But he suffered some significant internal trauma from the bullet. He also suffered shrapnel wounds from a bomb that was set off and he was struck by the suspect’s car as the suspect fled from the scene. So he may have injured his leg, as well.”

Still unclear were details about Carrillo’s mental state, any potential co-conspirators, how long roads in Ben Lomond will remain closed, whether or not Carrillo’s weapons were legally registered and who shot Carrillo and when. Hart said he would “only be guessing” at whether or not Carrillo was intending some significant attack that was scuttled by deputies.

Public access was closed to Waldeberg Drive and surrounding areas in Ben Lomond on Monday, where FBI agents had been since Saturday to investigate the crime scene — and where the “terrain is very unforgiving,” said John Bennett, special agent in charge of the FBI in San Francisco.

Bennett confirmed Monday that his agents were investigating Carrillo’s possible link to the shooting of two federal protection officers at the Federal Building in Oakland on May 29. Bennett said he would provide no further details on his office’s investigation, however.

“We are looking into every lead that becomes available and wherever it takes us, we will go,” Bennett said.

Hart thanked some 40 fellow law-enforcement and firefighting agencies that responded to a mutual aid request from Sheriff’s Office on Saturday, as well as the Ben Lomond community’s support and patience.