(KRON) — A Millbrae man who had a “bloodlust for police” and joined a right-wing extremist group known as “Boogaloo” is facing a life prison sentence, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
A jury convicted Robert Alvin Justus, Jr., 33, of aiding and abetting the murder of Protective Services Officer Dave Patrick Underwood during a drive-by shooting in Oakland. Underwood was murdered on May 29, 2020 while he was guarding the Ronald V. Dellums U.S. Courthouse.
The verdict follows a two-week trial before Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.
The evidence at trial established that Justus was the driver of the vehicle from which Steven Carrillo, 35, of Santa Cruz, fired the gunshots that killed Underwood and wounded a second officer.
The trial evidence demonstrated that Justus parked a white Ford Econoline van directly across the street from the federal courthouse on Jefferson Street. Officer Underwood and his partner that evening stood guard to protect the building. The passenger-side sliding door opened and Carrillo fired numerous rounds from an AR-style rifle toward the guard post, killing Underwood and seriously injuring his partner, prosecutors said.
The incident set off an eight-day manhunt that resulted in Carrillo’s capture in the Santa Cruz Mountains — but not before Carrillo killed Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller in an ambush.
Several days later, after Justus became aware that he was under investigation, he met with the FBI and admitted to his involvement in the shooting. “Justus claimed — during that meeting and in his trial testimony — that Carrillo had forced him to participate in the shooting against his will,” prosecutors said.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, “Justus and Carrillo shared an allegiance to a right-wing anti-government movement called Boogaloo. Both men’s social media activity and other correspondence in the months before the shooting demonstrated a strong desire to carry out violent acts against federal law enforcement officers.”
In February of 2020, Justus commented on Facebook that he had a “bloodlust for police.”
On May 27, 2020, Justus posted an image depicting a police officer being shot in the head with a caption reading “Speak to cops in a language they understand.”
On the day before the shooting, Carrillo posted a video of a mob attacking police cruisers and commented, “(T)his needs to be nationwide.” Justus responded to Carrillo’s social media post that same day, writing “Let’s boogie.”
The following day, the two met in a San Leandro parking lot. “They planned to capitalize on protests that night in response to the death of George Floyd, hoping that their attack would spark further anti-government violence,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office wrote.
After arriving in Oakland the evening of May 29, Justus and Carrillo circled the downtown area several times scouting for targets. Following the fatal shooting, Justus drove Carrillo back to Milbrae and the two separated.
In the days following the murder, Justus “continued to post anti-law enforcement content on Facebook, and corresponded with Carrillo about future meetings,” prosecutors said.
The jury convicted Justus of murder of a federal employee, as well as attempted murder of a federal employee. Justus now faces a mandatory term of life in prison.
Judge Gonzalez Rogers scheduled Justus’s sentencing hearing for February 24.
At the time of the killings, Carrillo was an active-duty U.S. Air Force staff sergeant and a member of the Phoenix Ravens, a specially-trained security force.
Carrillo pleaded guilty last year. He is currently serving a 41-year prison sentence for Underwood’s murder. Carrillo also received a life sentence in Santa Cruz County Superior Court for murdering Sgt. Gutzwiller.