Sister of officer killed by Boogaloo follower sues Facebook

The lawsuit claims that Facebook’s algorithms played a part in radicalizing the suspects


By Suzie Ziegler 

OAKLAND, Calif. — Social media giant Facebook is being sued over the death of Homeland Security officer Dave Patrick Underwood. Underwood was killed in a drive-by shooting while guarding a U.S. courthouse in Oakland on May 29, 2020. 

A lawsuit brought by Underwood’s sister claims that Facebook’s recommendation system played a part in radicalizing her brother’s killer, reports NBC News. The primary suspect, Steven Carrillo, was found to have ties to the Boogaloo movement, an extremist anti-government group. Carrillo would go on to kill Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller one week after shooting Underwood. 

“Facebook bears responsibility for the murder of my brother,” said Angela Underwood Jacobs in a statement obtained by NBC News. “As the lawsuit alleges, Facebook knowingly promoted inflammatory and violent content and connected extremists who plotted and carried out the killing of my brother. Facebook must be held responsible for the harm it has caused not just my family, but so many others, by promoting extremist content and building extremist groups on its platform.”

Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, left, and Federal Protective Services Officer Patrick David Underwood.
Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, left, and Federal Protective Services Officer Patrick David Underwood. (Photo/SCSO/Placer County Deputy Sheriffs' Association)

Facebook spokesperson Kevin McCallister said that his company has taken strong action against extremist groups. 

“We’ve banned more than 1,000 militarized social movements from our platform and work closely with experts to address the broader issue of internet radicalization. These claims are without legal basis," he wrote to NBC News. 

According to the report, Boogaloo-related Facebook groups were allowed on the social media platform until a month after the attacks. Carrillo met his getaway driver, Robert Alvin Justus Jr., through a Boogaloo Facebook group. Both Carrillo and Justus have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. 

Ted Leopold, a partner of the law firm bringing the suit, says the lawsuit isn’t about hosting content. Rather, it’s about Facebook’s promotion of the Boogaloo groups that brought Carrillo and Justus together, according to the report. 

“For lack of a better word, I think we have broken the code of what Facebook has done. They are an active participant, using algorithms, behind the curtain, to bring these types of individuals together,” Leopold told NBC News.  

NEXT: Police countermeasures to extremism 

Recommended for you

Copyright © 2022 Police1. All rights reserved.