Surveillance video shows chilling encounter with armed suspect in fatal Santa Cruz ambush

Bay Area

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KRON) – A worker at a Ben Lomond pot dispensary says he had a face to face encounter with the alleged killer of Deputy Damon Gutzwiller in the Santa Cruz ambush as he was trying to escape.

Surveillance video shows the suspect crouched behind a parked car in front of the Redwood Coast Dispensary off Highway 9 in Ben Lomond Saturday afternoon.

Employee Mark Kowlaski says at the time he was aware that a deputy had been shot and that a gunman was one the loose when he and his boss came out to investigate a commotion outside.  

As soon as he got to the parking lot, he found himself face to face with the armed man.

“We kind of looked each other up and down. I realized he was holding an assault rifle, and for a moment I think I hoped he was an off-duty police officer because he was kind of clean cut and not dirty or scruffy like someone who has just been in a shoot out. As we looked at each other, I was kind of like, ‘hey what’s going on,’ and he said, ‘can I borrow your car man, I really got to get out of here.’ I was still hoping that he was gonna flash a badge and say I’m a police officer but he said ‘I’m not a bad guy, I’m just sick of all of this duality bull S’ and as he said that I realized OK, this is the guy,” Kowalski said. 

Kowalski was able to back away when the suspect glanced away and then jogged across the parking lot.

“He jumped in the car where a young lady was and heard her scream. He jumped out,” Kowalski said.

It was after that the man left the parking lot.

Another witness says he then attempted to carjack another local man who tackled the suspect.

Not long after that the suspect was arrested and later identified as Ben Lomond resident Steven Carrillo.  

Kowalski learned after his run-in with the suspect that a Santa Cruz deputy was killed in the ambush.

“It’s just so unfortunate that this guy didn’t know how to direct his anger and a good guy pays the price,” Kowalski said. 

That pot shop worker says the suspect never pointed his firearm at him at any time during their encounter but he still rattled by the experience.

At least four other people in the parking lot were potentially in harm’s way.

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