Deputy killed, 2 officers injured after being ambushed in Santa Cruz County

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Sunday, June 7, 2020
Deputy killed, 2 other officers injured after being ambushed in Santa Cruz Co.
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A deputy was killed and two other officers were injured after being ambushed while responding to a call in Santa Cruz County on Saturday.

BEN LOMOND, Calif. -- A Santa Cruz County deputy was killed and other officers were injured after an ambush on Saturday, Sheriff Jim Hart said.

On Sunday, the FBI revealed it is looking into a possible link between the Santa Cruz County killing and the death of an officer outside the federal building in Oakland last month.

Around 1:30 p.m., the sheriff's office received a report of a suspicious van on a turnout at Jamison Creek Road near Ben Lomond. The caller said they saw guns and bomb-making devices inside the vehicle.

When deputies arrived at the scene they saw the van leave and followed the vehicle. As the van pulled into a driveway on Waldeberg Drive, the officers were ambushed with gunfire and many improvised explosives, Hart said.

Sergeant Damon Gutzwiller, 38, was shot and taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

"In my 32-year career, this is the worst day I've ever experienced," Sheriff Jim Hart said as he began the news conference.

Gutzwiller worked for the sheriff's office since 2006 and is survived by his wife, young child and another on the way. Hart described him as a courageous, intelligent, sensitive and caring man.

"Words cannot express the pain we feel for Damon and his family," Sheriff Jim Hart said, "He was the kind of person we all hope to be. Today, we lost a hero. We are grateful to have known him and we mourn with his family."

During the ambush, another officer was struck by either gunshot or shrapnel from the explosives, then struck by a getaway vehicle, Hart said.

Calls of carjacking soon followed as officers from other departments arrived to the scene.

Hart said another officer was shot in the hand and taken to the hospital. The two officers have not been identified and officials say they are hopeful they will recover.

The FBI confirmed to ABC7 in San Francisco, that the agency is looking into a possible connection between the Santa Cruz County shooting and the shooting death of Officer Pat Underwood in Oakland last month.

Security officer Underwood was shot and killed near George Floyd protests in Oakland on the night of May 29.

The FBI is now looking for a white van in connection to that shooting.

In a statement on Sunday, the FBI said, "We are actively working with the Santa Cruz Co Sherriff's Department to see if there are any connections to the shooting at the Oakland federal building. At this time, we have no new information to release."

WATCH: Santa Cruz Co. Sheriff Jim Hart's full news conference on Ben Lomond incident

The suspect, Steven Carrillo of Ben Lomond, was shot during his arrest and transported to the hospital. Hart said Carrillo is expected to survive and will be arrested for the murder of Sergeant Gutzwiller and other felonies.

We have also learned that the suspect is 32 years-old and an active duty US Air Force sergeant based out of Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield.

Investigators found many improvised explosive devices inside Carrillo's home Saturday and that the FBI has taken over the case. The working theory is the sheriff's deputies "interrupted something big that was about to happen."

On his Facebook page on May 31, Carrillo reposted a meme that said, "I'll never let racist white people make me forget about the dope white people I know exist. I love y'all." The post includes fist emojis of different skin tones, and both of the "whites" in the meme were crossed out. Carrillo wrote, "The only race that matters, the human race."

Carrillo has two children. His wife, Monika Carrillo, was a First Class Airmen in the Air Force, but she died in an off-base hotel in South Carolina in 2018. Authorities said at the time her death was not suspicious.

The District Attorney's Office is investigating the case and the Santa Cruz Co. will release more information about the incident early next week.

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the following statement regarding the death of Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Damon Gutzwiller:

"Jennifer and I extend our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and coworkers of Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Sergeant Damon Gutzwiller, who was tragically killed while on duty today. He will be remembered as a hero who devoted his life to protecting the community and as a loving husband and father."

In honor of Sergeant Gutzwiller, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff and a vigil will be held on Sunday.