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Arraignment delayed for US airman accused of ambush killing cop

Steven Carrillo, the suspect in the June 6, 2020 killing of Northern California sheriff's deputy Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller. (Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office/TNS)

The Ben Lomond man accused of fatally shooting a Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office deputy last month requested new legal representation from the public defender’s office Friday, deferring his arraignment until next month.

During the afternoon court hearing, attorney Mark Briscoe accepted appointment in the capital case and was granted a request that his client, Steven Carrillo, have until Aug. 27 to answer a charge of ambush-style murder involving the June 6 death of Deputy Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller. Carrillo, a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, will continue to be held without bail, and was expected to be transported for detention at Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County, Briscoe said outside court. Due to the nature of the case, involving murder and attempted murder charges of law enforcement officers, Carrillo could face the death penalty.

In addition to the murder charge, the Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office also has filed charges against Carrillo, including six counts of attempted murder, use of explosives, attempted use of explosive, carjacking, two attempted carjackings, assaulting a firefighter, possession of an unregistered, concealed and loaded firearm, two counts of possession of bomb-making materials and two counts of possession of an explosive device.

In a separate but parallel case, Carrillo, 32, and accomplice Robert Justus are accused of the murder, a week earlier, of Federal Protective Services officer David Patrick Underwood in Oakland in late May. Federal authorities have linked Carrillo to the so-called Boogaloo movement, an extremist anti-government movement that believes the second American Civil War is on the horizon.

Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Paul Burdick chastized attorney Jeffrey Stotter, who initially had appeared on Carrillo’s behalf, for attending Friday’s hearing by video conference call rather than in person.

At the center of a heavy law enforcement presence including snipers and bomb-sniffing dogs inside and outside the courthouse, Carrillo, wearing a face mask and an orange jail jumpsuit, himself sat in the courtroom’s jury box for his first physical Santa Cruz County appearance in the case. Elsewhere in the courtroom, seating for the public and members of the press was severely curtailed due to coronavirus-related social distancing mandates. Numerous sheriff’s deputies and several of Carrillo’s family members, among others, were allowed in the room, while remaining attendees watched a video livestream of the afternoon’s proceedings from nearby courtrooms.

Carrillo’s hearing was the first time the court has live-broadcast audio, through its YouTube channel, from a court hearing to the public, according to the court’s Director of Criminal and Traffic Operations Tim Newman. Select public courtroom broadcasts are available online at

Friday’s hearing was the second time Carrillo’s arraignment has been delayed. Outside the court, attorneys from the District Attorney’s Office and Briscoe declined to comment this week, as did members of Carrillo’s family. During Carrillo’s initial arraignment hearing June 12, Stotter, addressing reporters urged the public not to rush to judgment in the case. He said Carrillo had served in security forces overseas and had experienced “extreme personal and family loss,” plus a traumatic brain injury in 2009.


© 2020 the Santa Cruz Sentinel