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Air Force sergeant suspected of ‘ambush’ killing sheriff’s deputy, injuring 2 others with guns and bombs

Sergeant Damon Gutzwiller, 38, was shot and later pronounced dead at the hospital. (Santa Cruz Sheriff's Dept./Released)

The man suspected of ambushing two Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputies Saturday, killing one and critically wounding the other, is an active-duty staff sergeant at Travis Air Force Base, officials said Sunday.

Thirty-two-year-old Steven Carrillo joined the 60th Security Forces Squadron at the base in June 2018, Travis Air Force Base Public Affairs Officer Second Lieutenant Mike Longoria said.

Longoria said that his office is currently working to get more information soon about any previous administrative actions on Carrillo’s record, though he said those “would not be generally releasable” to the public.

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.

“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.”

Another deputy, who hasn’t been named, was critically injured by either bullets or shrapnel from a bomb, and a third deputy was shot in the hand, police said. The deputy who was critically injured was still being treated Saturday night, Hart said, adding that “we hope he’s going to be ok.”

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 Ben Lomond. When deputies arrived, they saw the van pulling away.

A few minutes later, a suspect later identified as Carrillo ambushed the deputies, opening fire and setting off multiple explosive devices, Hart said. After the ambush, Carrillo carjacked one person and attempted a second carjacking before he was shot and arrested.

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.

The FBI in San Francisco are currently investigating whether there are any links between the Ben Lomond killing and the killing of a federal security officer in Oakland, a US Attorney’s Office source familiar with the situation said, as both incidents involved a white van.

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.


©2020 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

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