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Authorities describe dramatic capture of heavily armed Air Force sergeant in deputy's killing

"It was a remarkable, remarkable, heroic thing that resident did," the sheriff said.
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A heavily armed active-duty Air Force staff sergeant who was arrested in the "ambush" killing of a sheriff's deputy in California was detained by a resident who batted away his guns and a pipe bomb, holding the suspect until neighbors and police arrived, authorities said Monday.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said the suspect, identified as Staff Sgt. Steven Carrillo, was dramatically apprehended Saturday after he shot and killed Santa Cruz County sheriff's Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, 38.

IMAGE: Damon Gutzwiller
Santa Cruz County, California, sheriff's Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller was killed Saturday, June 5, 2020.Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office

Another deputy was shot and struck by shrapnel from a bomb before Carrillo ran over him while fleeing the scene, Hart said. A third law enforcement officer, a member of the California Highway Patrol, was shot in the hand, he said.

The second deputy suffered "significant internal trauma" from a bullet that struck his tactical vest and a possible leg injury, but he is stable, Hart said.

The FBI is investigating a possible link between Saturday's incident and the killing of a federal officer in Oakland on May 29. Authorities have said the man who fired at that officer was in a white van. The victim was identified as Dave Patrick Underwood.

Carrillo is accused of opening fire on officers Saturday after someone called 911 about a suspicious white van in the Santa Cruz Mountains with guns and bomb-making equipment inside.

When officers found the van, the driver took off. Authorities followed it to a driveway in the remote community of Ben Lomond, in unincorporated Santa Cruz County. There, Hart said, Carrillo ambushed the officers before fleeing.

As deputies searched the area, Carrillo escaped to the backyard of a home with an AR-15-style rifle slung over his shoulder, authorities said. When a resident confronted him, asking why he was there, Carrillo demanded his car keys, authorities said.

IMAGE: Steven Carrillo
Steven Carrillo in a sheriff's photo.Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office

Hart said the resident, who asked not to be identified, gave his keys to Carrillo and tackled him as he began to leave. When the rifle "fell away," Carrillo tried to ignite a pipe bomb in his pocket while the man restrained him, Hart said.

"He was able to knock it out of his hand," Hart said.

Authorities said Carrillo then reached into his waistband for a pistol, which the resident also knocked away.

By then, other neighbors had arrived and were able to hold the suspect until authorities arrived, Hart said. Video from the scene showed two men holding him on the ground. An assault rifle could be seen nearby.

The woman who shot the video, Clara Ricabal, can be heard shouting at officers that the men had the suspect detained. She said the half-minute delay "felt like an eternity."

"It was a remarkable, remarkable, heroic thing that resident did," Hart said, adding that he would award him a commendation.

Referring to Carrillo, he said, "This guy could have done a lot more damage."

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Carrillo is the team leader of a specialized Air Force unit of the 60th Security Forces Squadron. He was stationed at Travis Air Force Base, northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area, in June 2018.

Carrillo's wife, who was also in the Air Force, died by suicide in South Carolina in 2018. John Bennett, special agent in charge of the FBI's San Francisco office, said Carrillo was not a suspect in her death, which he said was investigated by the Air Force.

Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeffrey Rosell said Carrillo will be arraigned Friday. Hart has said he will face murder charges.

CORRECTION (June 9, 2020, 10:07 a.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated who David Patrick Underwood was. He was a federal officer killed on May 29 in Oakland; he was not a suspect in the shooting.