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Sheriff: Ben Lomond Resident Detained Santa Cruz Ambush Suspect After Life Or Death Backyard Struggle

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, was captured by a local resident who wrestled him to the ground and disarmed him of an AR-15, pipe bomb and pistol in a life-or-death confrontation.

Angry and emotional Santa Cruz Sheriff Jim Hart called Carrillo "a dangerous man intent on bringing harm to police officers."

"I want to talk a little about Steven Carrillo, I don't even want to say his name again," Hart told reporters at a Monday afternoon news conference. "It's the last time you are going to hear me say it. This guy was active Air Force. He was dangerous and he was an angry man intent on bringing harm to police officers. He murdered Sgt. (Damon) Gutzwiller. He injured another deputy."

But Hart said it was 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 of Ben Lomond.

Hart said in his efforts to elude capture after ambushing the deputies, Carrillo carjacked one vehicle and attempted to steal several others.

"We think there are more victims out there that have not come forward," Hart said.

The sheriff described the ferocity of the battle between Carrillo and law enforcement officers on Saturday night.

"There was a lot of gunshots," Hart said. "There were pipe bombs going off. Radio and cell reception is poor in that region of the county. Our deputies were scouring the hillside both on foot and in vehicles looking for this guy on Saturday."

FBI San Francisco special agent in charge John Bennett talked about the possible connection between Carrillo's white van and one sought in connection with 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.

"Many of you have asked about this (the white van) in connection with the shooting of two federal protection officers in Oakland," Bennett said. "We are actively investigating the possibility of links between these cases. However, as this investigation is ongoing. I cannot provide or I will not provide details ... on it."

"We are looking into every lead available (in the Oakland shooting) and where it will go. We ask for the public's patience."

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.


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 and other counts.

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 gathered Sunday at Santa Cruz Sheriff's Office headquarters for a memorial vigil for the 38-year-old 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."

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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