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Suspect in deadly Ben Lomond ambush charged in murder of Oakland federal officer

OAKLAND, Calif. (KION)

UPDATE 6/16/2020 10:30 a.m. The FBI announced Tuesday morning that Steven Carrillo, the suspect in a Ben Lomond ambush that killed a Santa Cruz County deputy, is one of two people charged in the murder of a federal officer in Oakland.

Based on a ballistic vest found and blood writing on a vehicle, law enforcement also believes that Steven Carrillo may be involved in the "Boogaloo" movement. He is facing federal murder and attempted murder charges.

On May 29, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California David Anderson said Protective Security Officer Pat Underwood and his partner were injured in a drive by shooting at the Federal Courthouse in Oakland, and Underwood was killed. The two had been in a security guard outpost on the corner of 12th Street and Jefferson. In that incident, the suspects were in a white Ford Econoline-style van that had been parked across the street.

“Pat Underwood was murdered because he wore a uniform. He wore that uniform to signify his authority to protect the federal courthouse where we are today,” Anderson said.

The scene of the shooting at the Oakland Federal Courthouse

Anderson said it is believed Carrillo was the shooter and the other person charged, 30-year-old Robert Alvin Justus Jr. of Millbrae, was the driver. According to the complaints filed against the two, Carrillo is believed to have shot the officers from a sliding side passenger door.

“To be clear, Carrillo elected to travel to Oakland to conduct this murder and take advantage of a time when this nation was mourning the killing of George Floyd. There is no evidence that these men had any intention to join the demonstrations," FBI Special Agent John Bennett with the San Francisco division said. "They came to Oakland to kill cops.”

“We believe Carrillo and Justus chose this date because of the planned protest in Oakland, provided an opportunity for them to target multiple law enforcement personnel and avoid apprehension due to the large crowds attending the demonstrations,” Bennett said.

About a week later, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office responded to a report of a white van near Ben Lomond that appeared to have guns and bomb-making equipment inside. The van's VIN number showed that it was registered to M.L. Carrillo, but did not have any license plates.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said the white van found abandoned in Ben Lomond is the van believed to be used in the Oakland attack. Carrillo was seen driving a different van on the day of the Ben Lomond shooting.

A witness reported that she saw a similar van heading up Harmony Hill toward Waldeberg Road, which was reportedly registered to Carrillo. At the home, deputies said they were ambushed. Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller was shot and killed, and Deputy Alex Spencer was shot, hit with shrapnel and hit by a vehicle. Spencer was released form the hospital over the weekend.

After the shooting, Carrillo allegedly carjacked one person and attempted to carjack several other people as he left the scene.

During the investigation following Carrillo's arrest, an AR-15-style rifle was found that is believed to be the one used in the Oakland shooting. The ATF said it is a machine gun with a silencer that was privately made without a serial number.

While searching the property after Carrillo's arrest, officers said they found 9mm shell casings, and it was the same brand used in the Oakland shooting. ATF examiners believe that the same gun was used in both shootings based on analysis.

Law enforcement also found a ballistic vest with a patch that is allegedly tied to the "Boogaloo" movement. The patched showed an image resembling the American flag, but instead of stars, there was an Igloo and a Hawaiian motif replaced one of the stripes. At the news conference, officials described the movement as a militia group of people working toward a violent uprising. It is not considered an organized movement, but is loosely connected by ideas and symbols.

Before his arrest, Carrillo allegedly also wrote phrases in his own blood on the hood of a Toyota Camry that he allegedly carjacked, and Anderson said those phrases are also connected to the movement. The FBI believes the writing says "boog," "I became unreasonable" and "stop the duopoly."

The FBI said phone records also show that Carrillo's phone was on when he left Travis Air Force Base the day of the Oakland shooting and moved through Berkeley and into San Leandro before being shut off. When it was turned back on again, the FBI said it communicated with cell towers near the Oakland Zoo and appeared to stop in a residential part of Millbrae before going back to Santa Cruz County.

Justus was arrested on federal aiding and abetting and attempted murder charges after FBI surveillance. The FBI said Justus went with his parents to the Federal Building in San Francisco, and his mother said they wanted to give the FBI information about the white van in Oakland.

In an interview with agents, Justus told them he met Carrillo on Facebook and arranged to meet for Carrillo to give Justus a ride to protests in Oakland. He said they met at the San Leandro Bart station, where Carrillo allegedly arrived in a white van and told Justus to remove the license plate.

Justus told agents that Carrillo offered him body armor and a gun, but he declined. He said Carrillo told him to drive the van and that he did not want to participate in the murder, but felt that he had to because he was trapped in the van with Carrillo.

An agent apparently pointed out to Justus that he had gotten out of the van to walk alone before the shooting, but Justus told them he stayed with Carrillo because he was trying to think of ways to talk him out of the plan. He told the FBI that Carrillo showed interest in shooting a helicopter, police officers and civilians.

After the shooting, Justus said he drove home and put the license plate back on the van. He said Carrillo told him not to talk about what happened.

The FBI says in the criminal complaint against Carrillo, "Based on my training, experience, and review of the evidence in this case, I do not believe Justus did not want to participate in the murder as he claimed during his statement to FBI agents... Justus did not come forward to report his involvement with Carrillo in the Oakland murder until after the murder of the SCSO deputy and arrest of Carrillo. I therefore believe Justus' statement to the FBI was a false exculpatory narrative carefully crafted to fit what Justus believed to be the state of evidence."

The FBI's special agent in charge, Jack Bennett, said Carrillo and Justus allegedly planned the Oakland attack to happen around the time of protests over the death of George Floyd. He said they had no intention to join the protest, but said they went to the area to kill cops. Oakland's Interim Police Chief said there were about 500 officers in the area.

After reviewing Facebook exchanges between Carrillo, Justus and another person the day before the Oakland shooting, the FBI said Carrillo posted in a group saying, "It's on our coast now, this needs to be nationwide. It's a great opportunity to target the specialty soup bois. Keep that energy going." followed by two fire emojis and a link to a video showing a crowd attacking two CHP vehicles.

The FBI believes "soup bois" could be a term used by followers of the Boogaloo movement to refer to federal law enforcement agents.

When asked if other people may have been involved, officials said the investigation is ongoing.

If convicted of murder, Carrillo faces a maximum penalty of life in prison 
or death and a maximum 20 years for attempted murder.

Carrillo is being held at the Monterey County Jail. The U.S. Attorney's office said he will be brought into federal custody. KION is told that transfer is 
expected sometime next week. 

Read the criminal complaint against Carrillo below.

PREVIOUS STORY: The FBI is holding a press conference Tuesday morning to announce a "significant law enforcement action."

When KION asked about the suspect in a deadly ambush attack in Ben Lomond, law enforcement referred us to the press conference.

Crime / Top Stories

Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson is the Digital Content Director at KION News Channel 5/46.

Elisha Machado

Elisha Machado is a weekend anchor and multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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