Santa Cruz deputy’s accused killer scrawled message in blood, witnesses say

BEN LOMOND, Calif. (KRON) — A U.S. Air Force sergeant accused of ambushing two Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputies with an AR-15 rifle and pipe bombs apparently left messages scrawled in blood minutes before he was arrested, according to witnesses who sent photographs to KRON4.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller and his partner were investigating a suspicious white van in Ben Lomond Saturday afternoon because a 911 caller had reported that it had guns and bomb-making equipment inside, Sheriff Jim Hart said during a Monday press conference.

The deputies were met by a rain of gunfire and bombs. Gutzwiller was killed. The second deputy was injured when the gunman shot him in the chest, threw a bomb at him, and struck him with a white sedan, Hart said. The deputies had no way of knowing they were walking into a “firefight,” Hart said. The second deputy is recovering in a hospital from serious injuries.


The suspect, Air Force Sgt. Steven Carrillo, “is an angry man,” Hart said. “His actions alone said a lot about him. He used to very heavy weapon to shoot our deputies. And threw incendiary devices. He was very intent on killing these police officers,” Hart said.

Carrillo, 32, of Ben Lomond, was shot in the leg during the melee and fled in a white sedan.

One hour passed between when the deputy was killed, Carrillo went on the run, and when a resident found the suspect armed in his backyard. The “heroic” resident disarmed Carrillo and held him down with help from a second good Samaritan until deputies swooped in, Hart said.

“This guy could have done a lot more damage in our community had that resident not done what he did,” the sheriff said.

While Carillo was still on the run and bleeding, he apparently scrawled a message in blood on the back of the white sedan that he fled in, photographs sent by a witness to KRON4 show.

One message says, “Stop The Duality.” The second message is illegible.

Carrillo was also heard yelling “stop the duality” in a cellphone video recorded as he was being led away in handcuffs by deputies. He’s also recorded berating the deputies during his arrest, telling them, “This is why I’m sick of these god d**n police. This is what I’m sick of.”

One witness, Mark Kowalski, said he talked to Carrillo as he was hiding from deputies during the manhunt. Kowalski was working at Redwood Coast Dispensary off Highway 9 when he heard that a deputy had just been shot and the gunman was at large. When he walked outside, he found himself face-to-face with Carrillo.

Kowalski said, “He looked and me and I looked at him. He said, ‘I’m not a bad guy. I’m just sick of all the duality bullsh*t.’”

“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 shootout,” he told KRON4.

But when Carrillo started telling Kowalski that he was “not a bad guy,” Kowalski said he realized “OK, this is the guy.”

Sgt. Carrillo was an active member of Phoenix Raven at Travis Air Force Base.

Travis Air Force Base Capt. Amanda Farr said, “The Phoenix Ravens are specially-trained security forces personnel dedicated to providing an acceptable level of close-in security for aircraft transiting airfields where security is unknown or additional security is needed to counter local threats. The Phoenix Ravens receive additional training on a myriad of subject to include … explosive ordnance awareness, aircraft searches, and unarmed self-defense techniques. This training also includes instruction and realistic practical exercises in antiterrorism/force protection, weapon system security, verbal judo, combatives, tactical baton employment and advanced firearms proficiency.”

When a reporter asked if deputies feel like one of their own turned on them, Hart said no.

“This guy was not a cop. He was some sort of a security officer for the Air Force. This is not a police officer that we are talking about,” Hart said.

Carrillo will be in court Friday for arraignment on a slew of charges, including murder.

Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller