LOS ANGELES — Four Northern California men allegedly affiliated with the far-right extremist "Grizzly" militia have been indicted on charges of destroying evidence in a federal investigation into the killing of two officers, prosecutors said Friday.
Jessie Alexander Rush, 29, of Turlock; Robert Jesus Blancas, 33, no hometown given; Simon Sage Ybarra, 23, of Los Gatos; and Kenny Matthew Miksch, 21, of San Lorenzo, are charged in the March 23 indictment with conspiracy to destroy records, destruction of records and obstruction of official proceedings, said the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco.
Blancas also faces a separate federal case, filed Nov. 20, accusing him of enticing a teenage girl to engage in sex.
It wasn't immediately clear who is representing the defendants in court. Candis Mitchell, chief assistant federal public defender for Northern California, declined to comment.
Federal authorities say the four men communicated with U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Carrillo, 32, on June 6 as he ambushed deputies from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office, killing one of them.
The officers were at a location in the town of Ben Lomond to check out a suspicious white van later associated with the May 29 drive-by killing of federal officer Dave Patrick Underwood, 53, during George Floyd protests outside the the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland.
Carrillo is a defendant in that case, as well, and has pleaded not guilty in both.
"Dudes i offed a fed," authorities said Carrillo told the men over WhatsApp minutes before Santa Cruz sheriff's Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, 38, was fatally shot, according to a U.S. Attorney's statement Friday.
Prosecutors referred to the four men as "Grizzly Scouts," or members of a small group of men in Northern California associated with the "boogaloos" a loosely affiliated, anti-government group that advocates for violence against liberal politicians and law enforcement.
Investigators said Carrillo asked the men to ambush officers as they rushed to the shooting scene.
"Kit up and get here," Carrillo texted, according to the indictment. "Theres inly one road in/out. Take them out when theyre coming in. . . .Police are here fkr me . . . Theyre waiting for reenforcements im listening to them."
Prosecutors said Rush "immediately" told Carrillo to "factory reset" his cellphone, allegedly to destroy the texts as potential evidence. The four eventually deleted any record of the WhatsApp group from their phones, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.
Blancas also deleted 20 files from a Dropbox account, the indictment said. "Nearly all were relevant to the Grizzly Scouts," U.S. Attorney's Office said. "The deleted files regarding the Grizzly Scouts appeared to include, for example, files concerning the rank structure of the Grizzly Scouts."
Federal authorities called the "Grizzly Scouts" a small militia that "connected via a Facebook group" and "discussed committing acts of violence against law enforcement using WhatsApp and other messaging applications."
"they say the west won’t boog," someone wrote on the Facebook group's page, according to prosecutors, in reference to Boogaloo.
"were [sic] here to gather like minded Californians who can network and establish local goon squads," the social media post said, according to the indictment.
Brian Levin. director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, said the defendants appear to be mirroring the state of domestic terrorism in the U.S.
"We have a string of far-right extremist Boogaloo defendants with a common denominator of social media," he said. "In an increasingly splintered extremist landscape, it's the smaller, underground groups that are among the most dangerous threats."
The defendants each face a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted.
Blankstein reported from Los Angeles and Romero from San Diego.