SANTA CRUZ (CBS SF) — With law enforcement officers cheering and lining a hospital sidewalk, Santa Cruz County deputy sheriff Alex Spencer was released Sunday after being treated for injuries suffered in an alleged Santa Cruz Mountain ambush by Air Force Sgt. Steven Carrillo that claimed the life of a fellow deputy.
Spencer answered a call of a suspicious white van in the Santa Cruz Mountain town along with veteran deputy Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller on June 6.
They followed the van to a home Waldeberg Road and as they walked up the driveway, they were attacked with gunfire and explosives allegedly unleashed by Carrillo.
“They had no idea they were about to get into a firefight,” Sheriff Jim Hart said.
Gutzwiller was mortally wounded but Spencer continued to attempt to halt Carrillo’s flight from the scene.
“He suffered some serious injuries,” the sheriff told reporters. “We have not confirmed yet through ballistics but it appears that he had been shot in the chest and his vest was able to stop the bullet but he suffered some significant internal trauma from the bullet. He also suffered shrapnel wounds from a bomb that was set off and he was struck by the suspect’s car as suspect fled from the scene.”
Carrillo has been formally charged with murder and several counts of attempted murders with special enhancements in the attack that could carry with them a death sentence.
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Carrillo also allegedly shot a California Highway Patrol officer in the hand and tried to carjack a vehicle, then successfully carjacked a second one, but was eventually arrested on Alba Road just off state Highway 9 and was shot during his arrest, Hart said.
He was finally captured due to the actions of a local resident who stopped Carrillo from claiming more victims on Saturday night.
“This guy (Carrillo) went into the backyard of a local resident and the local resident confronted him and wanted to know what he was doing on his property,” Hart said. “The suspect told him that — actually he had an AR-15 slung, he was carrying an AR. He told the resident he wanted his car keys. The resident very calmly went into his house, obtained a key and came back out and handed it to him.”
“As the suspect turned around, the resident tackled him and the AR-15 fell away and the resident took this guy to the ground. At that time the suspect reached into his pocket and pulled out a pipe bomb and tried to ignite a pipe bomb while being held down.”
“This resident was able to knock the pipe bomb out of his hand and then the suspect reached into his waistband and pulled out a pistol. There was a wrestling match over the pistol. The resident was able to knock the pistol out of his hand, detain this guy. Multiple other community members from Ben Lomond jumped on this guy and held him until our deputies sheriffs were able to get there and take him into custody.”
“It was a remarkable, remarkable, heroic thing that that resident did. He does not want to be named. He doesn’t want any recognition … This guy could have done a lot more damage in out community had that resident not taken the action that he did.”
Hart said forensic teams, including the FBI, have found bomb-making equipment, pipe bombs, multiple firearms and a large amount of ammunition at the rural crime scene nestled in the heavily-wooded and rural Santa Cruz mountain community.
Those teams completed their work over the weekend.