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Militia group members plead guilty in federal court to attempting to destroy evidence related to Ben Lomond shooting

SAN FRANCISCO (KION-TV) UPDATE 9/21/21 5:39 P.M. The four men accused of trying to destroy evidence related to deadly shootings against Santa Cruz County law enforcement and a federal officer have plead guilty in federal court this week.

Kenny Miksch, a 21-year-old in defendant in the case, was the last to plead guilty in district court.

Jessie Rush of Turlock, Bay Area transient resident Robert Blancas and Simon Ybarra of Los Gatos were the other suspects who had previously pleaded guilty.

Each suspect was believed to have attempted to destroy material evidence tying Steven Carrillo to the shooting death of a federal officer in Oakland and an attack on Santa Cruz County law enforcement that claimed the life of Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller.

The individuals are members of the "Grizzly Scouts," which is a group associated with the "boogaloo" movement that Carrillo is claimed to be a member of.

According to suspect's plea agreements, Carrillo was in communication with the suspects and had asked the other group members to come to his aid and said, “Dudes i offed a fed.” Rush admitted he instructed Carrillo to delete data on his phone and get out of there. 

Rush, Blancas, Ybarra, and Miksch each face a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000

ORIGINAL STORY

Four members of a militia group associated with the boogaloo movement have been indicted for allegedly trying to obstruct justice and destroy evidence related to the murder of a federal officer in Oakland.

The suspects-- identified as 29-year-old Jessie Alexander Rush of Turlock, 33-year-old Robert Jesus Blancas, 23-year-old Simon Sage Ybarra of Los Gatos and 21-year-old Kenny Matthew Miksch-- were indicted by a grand jury. they are believed to be involved in a militia group identified with the boogaloo movement called the "Grizzly Scouts."

The case is related to the May 29, 2020 shooting at a federal building in Oakland and one of the suspects in the case, Steven Carrillo. Carrillo is also charged with the murder of Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office.

Group Contact

According to the indictment released by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Rush, Blancas, Ybarra, Miksch and Carrillo were all members of the Grizzly Scout militia group, which was reportedly founded by Rush in March or April 2020. It is believed that the group used WhatsApp and a Facebook group to communicate as early as April 4 through June 6, 2020. They also sometimes met for gun training and discussed violence against law enforcement over messaging applications.

Allegations

Steven Carrillo is one of two people charged for the murder of Protective Security Officer Pat Underwood in Oakland.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Carrillo was the passenger in a white van driven by Robert Alvin Justus Jr. when he opened fire on two officers, injuring one of them and killing Underwood. He is charged with murder and attempted murder in connection to that shooting.

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

By at least June 1 and through June 6, the group reportedly discussed tactics for killing law enforcement in a WhatsApp group.

On June 6 when Gutzwiller was killed in what law enforcement called an ambush in Ben Lomond. Minutes before the shooting, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Carrillo messaged the group saying that he was preparing for a shoot-out with law enforcement and asked Rush, Blancas, Ybarra and Miksch for help. He later messaged the group to say he "offed a fed."

At that point, investigators said Rush told Carrillo over the app to "factory reset" his phone to delete evidence, and at some point on or before Aug. 6, investigators said the four men deleted records of the group messages from their phones.

Within an hour of the Ben Lomond shooting, investigators said Blancas deleted 20 files related to the Grizzly Scouts from a Dropbox account. Some of the content of the files appeared to include the rank structure, confidentiality agreements, a liability release waiver, descriptions of uniforms and scorecards related to member training.

Within a few hours of the shooting, the U.S. Attorney's Office said the members began to communicate using alternative means, and several enabled an option for disappearing messages.

Investigators say that the group members confirmed to each other several times that they destroyed evidence related to the Grizzly Scouts.

Charges

Rush, Blancas, Ybarra and Miksch are charged with conspiring to alter, destroy or conceal records and documents related to the Grizzly Scouts militia group to prevent the use in official investigations related to the murder of Pat Underwood and attempted murder of another officer. They are also charged with specifically altering, destroying or concealing messages from the WhatsApp group to prevent their use in official proceedings.

Additionally, Rush is charged with trying to destroy evidence on his phone related to the murder, and Blancas is charged with destroying files about the Grizzly Scouts on Dropbox.

Read the full indictment below.

Ben Lomond "Ambush"

Early in the afternoon on June 6, 2020, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office got a call about a suspicious van containing guns and bomb-making materials parked near Jamison Creek, and when deputies got to the area, they saw it leaving and followed it to a home on Waldenberg.

During the investigation, the Sheriff's Office said the deputies who responded were ambushed with gunfire and explosive devices.

Gutzwiller was shot and died at the hospital. Another deputy was injured and then hit by a vehicle as Carrillo tried to leave the area, according to investigators.

After that, law enforcement got reports of a nearby carjacking, and a CHP officer was shot in the hand while responding. Carrillo was detained nearby by a community member and left evidence of his association with the boogaloo movement, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Sheriff's Office says bystander detained Ben Lomond shooting suspect who had guns, pipe bomb

Carrillo's Background

Steven Carrillo was a Staff Sergeant in the Air Force based at Travis Air Force Base at the time of his arrest and had completed the Air Force's elite "Raven" security training. Air Force officials told the CBS affiliate in the Bay Area that Carrillo was a "Phoenix Raven Team Leader."

A former serviceman and friend of Carrillo spoke to KION shortly after his arrest and said he was shocked by his arrest. His friend said Carrillo was still mourning after his wife allegedly committed suicide in 2018 but otherwise seemed normal.

Former serviceman and friend of suspect in Santa Cruz deputy killing "shocked"

Since Carrillo's arrest, he has been mentioned as part of other investigations involving members of the boogaloo movement.

Ivan Harrison Hunter

Ivan Harrison Hunter, a self-described member of the boogaloo movement, was arrested in October 2020 and charged with participating in a riot. He was arrested in Texas as part of an investigation into civil unrest in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd. Investigators believe he was in communication with Carrillo and discussed plans to attack law enforcement.

Suspected Boogaloo Bois member arrested and charged with rioting

Robert Jesus Blancas

Blancas, previously named as one of the group members accused of trying to destroy evidence, was initially arrested in the Bay Area in December 2020 for allegedly enticing a 15-year-old girl to engage in the production of child pornography. He was first identified by the FBI for his alleged involvement in the group, but during the investigation, law enforcement found evidence of activities related to child pornography.

US Attorney: Suspected boogaloo member arrested during Carrillo investigation for enticing minor to engage in sexual activity

Avery Johnson

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

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