Feds Say Suspect in Killing of Officers in Oakland, Santa Cruz Is Linked to Right-Wing Extremists

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A black and white aerial photo of a white van in a crosswalk.
Security footage of the white van officials say Staff Sgt. Steven Carrillo used in the murder of federal security officer David Patrick Underwood in Oakland on the night of May 29, 2020. (Courtesy of US District Court)

An Air Force sergeant already jailed in the ambush killing of a Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputy was charged Tuesday with murdering a federal security officer outside Oakland's federal building the night of May 29.

Federal authorities allege that Steven Carrillo, 32, a staff sergeant at Fairfield's Travis Air Force Base, had ties to the right-wing anti-government “boogaloo" movement and that the plot to target law enforcement officers was hatched during an online chat among the group members.

Federal security officer David Patrick Underwood, 53, was killed the night of May 29 and his partner was seriously wounded as they guarded the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building during the first night of major demonstrations in Oakland over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“Pat Underwood was murdered because he wore a uniform,” David Anderson, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, said at a Tuesday morning news conference at the Dellums building.

According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Carrillo and his alleged getaway driver, Robert A. Justus Jr., 30, of Millbrae, parked a white Ford Econoline van at 12th and Jefferson streets, near the building's guard post, just before 9:30 p.m. the night of May 29.

The 22-page complaint says that Justus, who turned himself in to the FBI in San Francisco last week, exited the van and walked around the area for about 10 minutes.

A few minutes after he returned and got back in the driver's seat, the van rolled through the intersection and its passenger-side sliding door opened. The complaint says that Carrillo fired a "privately made" AR-15-style rifle through the open door at the guard post where Underwood and his partner were located.

After shooting the two officers, Justus told agents, Carrillo "said words to the effect of, 'Did you see how they fucking fell?'" The complaint says Justus described Carrillo as being "excited and thrilled after the shooting."

Justus told agents that he was an unwilling participant in the attack but stayed with Carrillo because he felt "trapped." The complaint says that when an agent pointed out that Justus had gotten out of the van and that he could have walked away at that point, he responded "that he ... was trying to think of ways to talk Carrillo out of his plan. Justus said Carrillo expressed an interest multiple times in shooting a helicopter, police officers and civilians, but that Justus talked him out of it."

Justus faces charges of aiding and abetting murder and attempted murder of federal officers.

The criminal complaint quotes several social media posts Carrillo made in the 48 hours before the attack suggesting he intended to target federal officers. Those posts included a Facebook comment on the morning of the attack that urged people to take advantage of the protests responding to Floyd's killing.

"Go to the riots and support our own cause," the complaint quotes Carrillo as saying. "Show them the real targets. Use their anger to fuel our fire. ... We have mobs of angry people to use to our advantage.”

Carrillo's attorney, Jeffrey Stotter, did not immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment. Stotter said after a court hearing last week that Carrillo suffers from a non-service-related traumatic brain injury.

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The complaint indicates that investigators connected Carrillo to the Oakland attack only after the June 6 fatal shooting of Santa Cruz County sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller and the wounding of four other officers in Ben Lomond, an unincorporated community in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Among other evidence, the complaint says that tests conducted by examiners from the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives concluded the same weapon was used in the Oakland and Santa Cruz County shootings.

Carrillo is being held without bail in jail in Monterey County. He is expected to enter a plea next month to 19 felony counts, including murder, arising from the Ben Lomond incident.

The charges disclosed Tuesday also cited evidence that Carrillo is part of the “boogaloo” movement, whose anti-government adherents derived the term from the 1984 movie “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo” and use it as a code word for a second U.S. civil war.

Another derivation of “boogaloo” is “big luau” and Hawaiian garb is common among members' clothing. Officials found an American flag-like patch on Carrillo's bulletproof vest that depicted an igloo and a Hawaiian-style print, themes commonly associated with the movement.

A patch with symbols associated with the far-right 'Boogaloo' movement was found sewn onto Steven Carrillo's ballistic vest following a search of his van by law enforcement.
A patch with symbols associated with the far-right 'Boogaloo' movement was found sewn onto Steven Carrillo's ballistic vest following a search of his van by law enforcement. (U.S. District Court)

Carrillo also wrote — using his own blood — phrases associated with the movement onto a vehicle he had carjacked before he was taken into custody following the killing of the Santa Cruz deputy, authorities said.

Authorities do not believe Carrillo and Justus coordinated to make attack plans with three Nevada men who had plotted to spark violence during recent protests in Las Vegas and also identify with the “boogaloo” movement.

This story includes reporting from The Associated Press.