SANTA CRUZ (KPIX) — Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller was doing his job when he approached a van reportedly containing guns and explosive devices in the rural town of Ben Lomond.
The driver opened fire and Gutzwiller was killed. Two other officers were injured before suspect Steven Carrillo was arrested for the crimes.
Not much was known about Carrillo but a lot of people knew Gutzwiller.
“He was a very gentle man. He’s loved and he will be missed,” retired deputy Cathy Bramanti told a large crowd of friends and supporters at a Sunday afternoon memorial at Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office headquarters.
“Damon is the picture of community policing,” said sheriff Jim Hart. “He was kind, caring, patient, empathetic. He could take enforcement action when he needed to but he would rather communicate his way through any problem in front of him.”
That’s not the kind of picture being offered about law enforcement lately and the people who came in support were clearly aware of that. It’s often said that being a cop is a tough job — being expected to remain cool in a social climate of increasingly violent anger.
“It’s senseless. It’s senseless! Why this is happening,” said Santa Cruz resident Dorene Bolanos. “He was protecting our community and doing his job.”
No one spoke out in anger Sunday but it was clear many felt law enforcement is being cast in a too-negative light.
“We all have passion for what we believe in,” said Priscilla Christie. “It’s how to express it — that’s what matters.”
Those who gathered Sunday say it’s important to remember what police are asked to do and the loss they too can feel.
“Nobody ever thinks about the horrors they’ve seen,” said Charlie Samms, his voiced choked with emotion. “Terrible — it’s just terrible. The man had a two-year old son, he’s got a baby due next week. What’s going to happen? How are they going to grow up?”
Gutzwiller was a 14-year veteran of the sheriff’s office who began as a civilian volunteer. He was 38 years old and is survived by his pregnant wife and two-year-old son.