Officials: Suspect in ambush killing of deputy in NorCal was tackled, detained by local resident

An resident of a small Northern California town helped authorities detain and arrest the suspect accused of killing a 38-year-old sheriff's deputy.

ByAlix Martichoux KGO logo
Monday, June 8, 2020
Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said an anonymous Ben Lomond resident helped make the arrest of Steven Carrillo, the suspect accused of ambush shooting deputies.
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The Santa Cruz County Sheriff said an anonymous resident helped with the arrest of Steven Carrillo, an active duty air force sergeant accused of ambushing, shooting and killing a sheriff's deputy, and injuring two others.

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. -- The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department had some help detaining and arresting the man accused of ambush shooting and killing a deputy in Northern California over the weekend.

An active-duty U.S. Air Force sergeant, 32-year-old Steven Carrillo, has been arrested on suspicion of fatally shooting Santa Cruz Sheriff's Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, 38, and wounding two other officers Saturday.

Carrillo was detained with the help of a resident of Ben Lomond, a census-designated place in the county, Sheriff Jim Hart said Monday.

The sheriff described a chaotic scene Saturday afternoon in the Santa Cruz mountains with pipe bombs detonating and poor radio and cell signal while they searched for Carrillo. Carrillo ran into a Ben Lomond resident's yard wearing an AR-15 on his chest, Hart said, and demanded the resident's car keys.

The resident calmly went into his house, came back and handed him a key. When Carrillo turned to leave, the resident tackled him to the ground. Carrillo tried to light a pipe bomb, Hart said, which the resident swatted away. Then he pulled out a pistol and the resident successfully wrestled that away as well.

A Santa Cruz County sheriff's deputy was killed and two law enforcement officers wounded Saturday when they were ambushed with gunfire and explosives while pursuing a suspect, according to authorities.

More nearby residents jumped into action and helped detain the suspect until sheriff's deputies could arrive on scene.

"It was a remarkable, heroic thing that resident did," said Sheriff Hart. "He doesn't want to be named and doesn't want any recognition."

The violent encounter started Saturday when deputies responded to a 911 call around 1:30 p.m. about a suspicious van in Ben Lomond. The caller said there were guns and bomb-making devices inside, Hart said.

When deputies arrived, they were ambushed by gunfire and explosives after getting out of their vehicle.

Sergeant Damon Gutzwiller was wounded and later died at a hospital. Sheriff Hart said Monday another deputy, whose identity isn't being revealed, was also shot in the chest, but a bulletproof vest stopped the bullet. Still, he suffered internal trauma as a result. He was also hit by shrapnel from a bomb that went off and by the suspect's vehicle as he fled. He was in the hospital in stable condition Monday.

A third officer from the California Highway Patrol was shot in his hand.

Carrillo was being treated at the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries and will be charged with first-degree murder, Hart said.

Carrillo's wife, Monika Leigh Scott Carrillo, who was also in the Air Force, was found dead in an off-base hotel in May 2018 while she was stationed in South Carolina. She was 30. Her death was investigated by the Sumter County Sheriff's Office, in coordination with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and ruled a suicide, according to the Air Force.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said Gutzwiller was a beloved 14-year veteran of the force.

"There's a hole in all of our hearts now," he said at a vigil Sunday that drew more than a thousand mourners.

The FBI is investigating a possible link between the Ben Lomond shooting and the attack on the Federal Building in downtown Oakland that killed a security officer on May 29. The suspect in both cases was described as having a white van filled with weapons.

Special Agent John Bennett declined to give further details on any possible links, saying, "This is a complex and active investigation."

Since Saturday, law enforcement have been sorting through a large quantity of bombs, bomb-making equipment and ammunition found at the scene of the crime.

Carrillo will be arraigned Friday afternoon.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.