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Air Force vet gets life in prison for 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)
August 29, 2022

An Air Force veteran was sentenced to life in prison on Friday for the fatal shooting of a Santa Cruz County sheriff’s sergeant in 2020. 

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Steven Carrillo, 32, pleaded guilty to fatally shooting Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, who at the time was responding to a report about a vehicle containing bomb-making materials and firearms, Lookout Santa Cruz reported

Other officers who were with Gutzwiller when he was shot submitted statements to the court, which were read aloud by the prosecutor before Carrillo’s sentencing. 

“You are a coward. I’ve come to the conclusion I cannot forgive you,” California Highway Patrol officer Luis Rodriguez, who was injured in the shooting, said in his statement. “The trauma I hope to overcome completely. But I don’t know if that’s possible.”

Gutzwiller’s widow, Favi Del Real, also spoke directly to her husband’s killer prior to his sentencing. 

“My children will mourn the loss of their father, through every birthday,” she said through tears. “There can be no justice for what you have done. They could kill you a million times over and it would never be enough.”

Carrillo also pleaded guilty to fatally shooting federal security guard David Patrick Underwood just days before he killed Gutzwiller. For the slaying of Underwood, Carrillo received 41 years in prison. 

On May 29, 2020, Carrillo opened fire on the guard shack of a federal courthouse in Oakland where Underwood, 53, was a security guard. A second officer was injured during the attack. 

Carillo also admitted to being part of the “boogaloo” movement, which is described by the Anti-Defamation League as “an anti-government extremist movement” that believes there will be a second civil war in the United States. 

One day before killing Underwood, Carrillo posted on Facebook that he was done just talking and was ready to act, and asked if anyone was “down to boot.”

“I aligned myself with the antigovernment movement and wanted to carry out violent acts against federal law enforcement officers in particular,” Carrillo said during his guilty plea, during which he also admitted to unloading 19 rounds on the guard shack. 

Last month, an apparent internal FBI document listed the Betsy Ross American flag, the Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, symbols of the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, and other imagery as symbols of “Militia Violent Extremists” or MVEs. Included on the list was the “boogaloo” movement’s flag. 

The “boogaloo” flag is an American flag with an igloo replacing the 50 stars and a single Hawaiian-shirt patterned line. The term Boogaloo is a reference to the film Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo and appears to describe the possibility of a second American civil war.