FBI looks for link between shootings of officers in Santa Cruz and Oakland

Soumya Karlamangla
Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller was killed when he and other officers were ambushed with gunfire and explosives while pursuing a suspect, authorities say.  (Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office)

After a Santa Cruz County sheriff's deputy was shot and killed Saturday, federal investigators are trying to determine whether the slaying is connected to other recent crimes in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the shooting of an officer last month in Oakland, officials said.

Sheriff's Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, 38, was shot and killed Saturday in Ben Lomond, an unincorporated area near Santa Cruz. Gutzwiller and other officers, some of whom were also injured, were ambushed with gunfire and explosives while pursuing a suspect, authorities said.

The death, the first in the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office since the early 1980s, stunned the region.

"This will be something that will be with us for a long time," Sheriff Jim Hart said at a news conference. "His life was taken needlessly, and it’s a hard thing to process."

At the scene, authorities arrested and booked Steven Carrillo, who was later identified as an active-duty sergeant stationed at Travis Air Force Base. Carrillo, 32, was a member of the 60th Security Forces Squadron, according to a Travis Air Force Base spokesman.

Law enforcement officials said they were unsure whether Carrillo had been acting alone and whether the explosives in his car were part of a larger plot he planned to carry out. The FBI said it was looking into potential links to previous incidents, including the one late last month in Oakland.

On the night of May 29, Dave Patrick Underwood, 53, was shot and killed while working as a security officer at the federal courthouse in Oakland, employed by the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service. Another officer who was present was injured, officials said.

The FBI, already investigating the Underwood case, is now trying to determine the motive behind the Santa Cruz County incident, as well as "links to other crimes committed in the Bay Area, to include the shooting of the FPS officers in Oakland," a spokesperson said in an email.

Carrillo, the suspect in the Santa Cruz case, came to Travis Air Force Base in June 2018, a month after his wife died, according to authorities and obituaries. His wife, Monika Leigh Scott Carrillo, was also in the Air Force. She was found dead in May 2018 in what was ruled a suicide while stationed in South Carolina, according to the Air Force.

Monika Carrillo, 30, had been married to Steven Carrillo for nine years, and they had a son and daughter together, according to an obituary posted online.

On Saturday, Steven Carrillo was reportedly shot during his arrest and then treated at a hospital, Hart said. He will be charged with murder, assault with a deadly weapon and several other felony charges, the sheriff said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all flags in the state Capitol to be flown at half-staff in honor of Gutzwiller. The fallen sergeant, who had been with the Sheriff's Office since 2006, had a wife, a young child and another child on the way.

"He will be remembered as a hero who devoted his life to protecting the community and as a loving husband and father," Newsom said in a statement.

Dozens gathered outside the Sheriff's Office on Saturday afternoon to pay tribute to Gutzwiller. His wife and child stood next to a photo of him and bouquets of flowers.

Gutzwiller's colleagues described him as unusually patient, always smiling and cracking jokes, with a self-deprecating sense of humor. Hart said he had reviewed Gutzwiller's personnel file, and there hadn't been a single complaint from the public against him in his 14 years in the department.

He grew up in Santa Cruz and knew and understood the community, and was beloved by his colleagues, Hart said.

"He was kind, caring and empathetic," Hart said. "I will never forget him."

The Associated Press and Times staff writer Alex Wigglesworth contributed to this report.