Former Air Force sergeant sentenced to life for killing a cop in the name of sparking a second civil war

Steven Carrillo will simultaneously serve a sentence for killing a federal agent.
Nicholas Slayton Avatar

Steven Carrillo will serve life in prison. A Santa Cruz County Superior Judge ruled on Friday, Aug. 26 that the former Air Force sergeant will serve that sentence without appeal or parole for killing a Santa Cruz deputy in 2020 while trying to spark a second civil war.

Carrillo’s sentence is the second given to the former airman, who had pleaded guilty both to the deputy’s death and to killing a federal security agent in Oakland in May 2020. Carrillo had ties to the Boogaloo Boys, a right-wing extremist group intent on starting a second civil war in the United States. The group is active online, and Carrillo posted about his plans and association with the Boogaloo movement. 

At the time, Carrillo was serving as an active-duty Air Force sergeant, based out of Travis Air Force Base in California and leading a Phoenix Raven security team, part of Air Mobility Command. When protests broke out nationwide in the aftermath of the police murder of George Floyd in May 2020, Carrillo used the opportunity to launch attacks on federal agents. He and another Boogaloo follower drove to Oakland and, using the protests as cover, did a drive-by shooting in a van on May 29, killing federal security agent David Patrick Underwood while he guarded a federal building in the city. 

An image captured by a surveillance camera during the shooting at Oakland’s federal courthouse on May 29, 2020, shows the white van’s door open as Carrillo allegedly fired at officers in a guard hut, far right. (United States District Court for the Northern District of California)

A week later Carrillo, who lived in Santa Cruz County, launched an ambush of Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputies in Ben Lomond, CA. He lured them to a location and opened fire. The firefight killed Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller and wounded others. Carrillo was arrested after a shootout, and eventually linked to Underwood’s killing in Oakland.

Carrillo was already sentenced to 41 years in prison for Underwood’s murder, which he pleaded guilty to in February. He pleaded guilty to Gutzwiller’s murder in June. The judge in Santa Cruz ruled that the two prison sentences will be served simultaneously. Carrillo’s accomplice in Oakland, Robert Alvin Justus Jr., is currently facing federal murder charges. 

Carrillo’s case is one of several involving veterans or active-duty service members accused of extremist actions and beliefs. Task & Purpose found multiple extremist cases involving troops or veterans. The Boogaloo movement has attracted troops, but it’s not the only group. One Army private recently pleaded guilty to planning to attack fellow service members. He is believed to be part of the Neo-Nazi Satanic organization Order of the Nine Angles, or O9A., and allegedly communicated with al-Qaeda. 

The Pentagon has been reviewing its ranks to determine how bad the extremism problem is. The Pentagon’s own findings said that even though the number of extremists in the ranks is small, their military training makes them highly dangerous. 

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