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Suspect in killing of 2 Bay Area officers tied to right-wing Boogaloo group, prosecutors allege

The LA Times logo The LA Times 6/16/2020 Maura Dolan, Richard Winton

a man looking at the camera: Steven Carrillo, shown in a booking photo, is a leader in an elite military security force. (Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office)

Steven Carrillo, shown in a booking photo, is a leader in an elite military security force. (Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office)
© (Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office via AP)

Two men associated with an extremist movement whose goal is to incite civil unrest face federal prosecution in the fatal shooting in Oakland last month of a federal security officer, officials said Tuesday.

Air Force Sgt. Steven Carrillo, 32, who was charged in state court last week with the killing of Damon Gutzwiller, a Santa Cruz County sheriff's sergeant, now faces federal charges along with another man in the Oakland slaying.

Federal officials said Carrillo was aided by Robert A. Justus Jr., 30, of Millbrae, Calif., in the killing of federal security officer David Patrick Underwood. Justus drove a white van and acted as the getaway driver in the May 29 Oakland shooting, officials said.

Federal officials, speaking at a news conference Tuesday, said the two men were linked through cellphone records. Officials said Carrillo harbored a hatred of law enforcement and had ties to a right-wing "Boogaloo" movement that believes a second American Civil War is coming soon.

Underwood, a 53-year-old resident of Pinole, Calif., was guarding the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland amid protests nearby over police brutality and the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The white van was captured on a surveillance video, officials said, which revealed that the gunman slid open the van's side door to fire the weapon.

U.S. Atty. David Anderson said at the news conference that Carrillo was the triggerman, killing Underwood and severely injuring a second security officer in the "ambush."

FBI Special Agent in Charge Jack Bennett said the pair tried to use the ongoing protests over the police killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd as a cover for their plans to attack law enforcement.

“There is no evidence that these men had any intention to join the demonstration in Oakland," Bennett said. "They came to Oakland to kill cops."

Bennett said Carrillo used a privately made unmarked machine gun — a so-called ghost gun — and a silencer to kill the federal officer. Bennett would not say whether Carrillo personally assembled the weapon.

The federal complaint against Carrillo described "Boogaloo" as a term used by extremists who want to foment a violent uprising or civil war in the United States. Boogaloo is not a defined group, but rather followers of its ideology may identify themselves as militia and target perceived government tyranny, the complaint said.

Law enforcement found a ballistic vest in Carrillo's van with a patch, the complaint said. The symbols on the patch, an igloo and a Hawaiian-style print, are associated with the Boogaloo movement, according to the complaint.

A decision on whether to seek the federal death penalty against Carrillo has not been made, officials said. Justus faces charges of aiding and abetting in the killing of Underwood and the attempted killing of the second security officer.

The Oakland killing sparked an eight-day manhunt that led to Carrillo's arrest after a witness reported an abandoned white van containing ammunition, firearms and bomb-making equipment in the Santa Cruz County community of Ben Lomond.

Santa Cruz County sheriff's deputies found evidence in the van that led them to Carrillo’s residence in Ben Lomond. There, Carrillo allegedly opened fire on the deputies, killing one and injuring a second. During the June 6 attack, there was also an explosion on the property, officials said.

The federal complaints filed against the two men said Carrillo was shot during the gunfire, ran away and then hijacked a car on a nearby highway.When he was arrested, he was bleeding from his hip, the complaint said.

Carrillo apparently used his own blood to write messages on the hood of the highjacked car, the complaint against him said. It identified the writing as “BOOG,” “I Became Unreasonable,” and “Stop the Duopoly.”

An Air Force sergeant and leader in an elite military security force, Carrillo was armed with homemade bombs, an AR-15 rifle and other weapons and had a desire to harm police when he launched the attack on unsuspecting officers, the Santa Cruz County sheriff said Monday.

Brian Levin, executive director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, said Carrillo's posts on social media, including Facebook, had become increasingly disturbing. Levin says far-right groups are now more of a threat to government and law enforcement.

"Our research shows 27 far-right extremist-connected homicides" in 2019, Levin said. The FBI arrested three devotees of the Boogaloo movement in Nevada recently, and they were charged with inciting violence with the use of Molotov cocktails at protests.

Levin said Boogaloo followers range from ultra-libertarians to white supremacists, but they all share a belief in a second Civil War coming.

"They are 2nd Amendment insurrectionists," Levin said. "The Boogaloo boys believe in armed insurrection and include attacks on the police."

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