SANTA CRUZ (CBS SF) — Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Carrillo, who allegedly killed a Santa Cruz deputy and wounded two others with gunfire and improvised explosives in a weekend ambush in the Santa Cruz Mountains, had completed the military branch’s elite “Raven” security training which includes “explosive ordnance awareness.”
Air Force officials have confirmed that Carrillo was a “Phoenix Raven Team Leader.” In a 2018 press release, the Air Force published a photo of him undergoing the intense training program at Joint Base McGuire-Dix in Lakehurst, New Jersey in Sept. 2018.
The Air Force website said the two-week, 12-hour-a-day course at McGuire “covers cross-cultural awareness, legal considerations, embassy operations, explosive ordnance awareness and more.”
“While Raven apprentices are learning these techniques, they also are exposed to more than 70 use-of-force scenarios,” the Air Force release said.
Federal investigators were also investigating if Carrillo has a connection to the slaying of a Federal Security officer killed in Oakland during a night of violence related to the death of George Floyd.
The FBI said Sunday it was investigating a connection between Carrillo’s white van and a similar vehicle that may have been used in the fatal shooting of federal protective services officer David Underwood and the wounding of a second officer on May 29 during a night of unrest on nearby Oakland streets.
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“The investigation into the incident in Ben Lomond, Calif. is ongoing,” the FBI said in a statement. “We are working with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department to determine a possible motive and/or links to other crimes committed in the Bay Area, to include the shooting of the FPS officers in Oakland.”
FBI investigators were among the law enforcement officials at Ben Lomond crime scene Saturday night.
Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, called the Oakland shooting an “act of domestic terrorism.”
Carrillo has been stationed at Travis since 2018 and was member of the 60th Security Forces Squadron, a base spokesman said. He will be charged with first-degree murder.
Investigators were still trying to determine the circumstances behind the ambush of the two deputies with gunfire and improvised explosives.
Meanwhile, deputies and local residents gather Sunday at Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office headquarters Sunday for a memorial vigil for 38-year-old Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller.
“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.”
At a Saturday night news conference, a grief-stricken Sheriff Jim Hart said his agency received a 911 call at 1:30 p.m. of a suspicious white van parked off the road near Jamison Creek near Ben Lomond in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
“The caller saw guns and bomb-making materials inside the van,” he said.
Gutzwiller and another deputy responded and saw the van driving away. They tracked it to a home in Ben Lomond. When they got out of their vehicles they “were ambushed with gunfire and improvised explosive devices.” At 2:36 p.m. a call went out reporting an officer down.
“Sergeant Damon Gutzwiller was shot and taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead,” Hart said. “Another deputy was either shot or struck by shrapnel and struck by a car as the suspect fled the property. We are hopeful the deputy will recover.”
Gutzwiller “was a beloved figure here at the sheriff’s office,” Sheriff Hart said. “Damon showed up today to do his job, to keep this community safe and his life was taken needlessly.”
Carrillo, who was reportedly armed, was tracked down by other officers and wounded in his apprehension. Hart said the suspect was transported to the hospital for treatment and would be charged with first-degree murder and other charges.
A CHP officer also suffered a hand wound in the incident and was expected to survive.
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