Calif. deputy killed in bombing, shooting ambush

Two deputies were also injured when a suspect opened fire on deputies conducting an investigation

Duty Death: Damon Gutzwiller - [Santa Cruz, California]

End of Service: 06/06/2020


PORAC has set up a fundraiser for Sergeant Damon Gutzwiller's family. He leaves behind a wife who is three weeks away from delivering their second child and their 2-year-old son.

Nicholas Ibarra
Santa Cruz Sentinel

BEN LOMOND, Calif. — Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office was fatally shot Saturday in Ben Lomond as deputies were ambushed with gunfire and improvised explosives during an investigation.

A second deputy and a California Highway Patrol officer were injured, according to Sheriff Jim Hart.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller was killed in the line of duty Saturday evening in Ben Lomond after responding to a report of a suspicious van that had guns and explosives inside. (Photo/ODMP)
Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller was killed in the line of duty Saturday evening in Ben Lomond after responding to a report of a suspicious van that had guns and explosives inside. (Photo/ODMP)

A suspect, Ben Lomond resident Steven Carrillo, was apprehended and will face murder charges and additional felony counts, according to Hart. Carrillo was shot as he was placed in custody, and was treated at a hospital Saturday night.

The incident began with a report to the Sheriff’s Office of a suspicious van in a turnout near Jamison Creek Road in Boulder Creek around 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The caller reported that guns and bomb-making materials were visible inside the van, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

When deputies arrived the van was seen leaving the area. Deputies attempted to follow it, finally locating the van at a Ben Lomond home, according to Hart. There, he said deputies were ambushed with gunfire and improvised explosives.

Gutzwiller was shot and transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The second deputy was either shot or struck by shrapnel and was struck by a car as the suspect fled the property.

“He’s currently at the hospital, and we hope that he’s going to be OK,” Hart said at a news conference Saturday night.

Soon after, authorities received calls of a carjacking nearby as officers from departments across Santa Cruz County arrived to the area.

Carrillo allegedly engaged with, and then fled from, responding CHP officers and attempted to carjack another vehicle according to Hart.

Officers from multiple departments located and apprehended Carrillo, who was reportedly armed.

Much about the violent attack, and Carrillo, remained unknown Saturday night. Hart said it was unclear what had been underway when the van reportedly containing guns and explosives was seen. He said it was unknown what kind of improvised explosives were used.

Whether Carrillo acted alone was also unknown Saturday. “That’s another area that investigators are definitely looking at,” Hart said.

Gutzwiller, 38, was a patrol supervisor who had worked for the Sheriff’s Office since 2006. He was married with a young child, and another child on the way, according to Hart.

“In my 32 year career this is the worst day that I have experienced,” Hart said. “Today we lost one of our own, and he was a true hero.”

“I ask that the community be patient as we go through this investigation and the grieving process,” Hart said. “Damon will be deeply missed. By this community, by his family, and by all his coworkers here at the Sheriff’s Office. He was a beloved figure here at the Sheriff’s Office. His legacy will live on in the work and service that we provide to the Santa Cruz County community.”

It had been more than three decades since a Sheriff’s Office deputy was killed on duty. Deputy Michael Gray was shot after he stopped a suspicious-looking hitchhiker on Highway 9 across from Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park on Jan. 3, 1983.

The District Attorney’s Office and the FBI are investigating the case, according to Hart.

The Sheriff’s Office is holding a vigil Sunday at 2:26 p.m., the time the call was received that Gutzwiller had been shot.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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