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Ex-Air Force Sergeant Pleads Guilty to Killing Federal Guard in Oakland During George Floyd Protests

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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)

A former U.S. Air Force staff sergeant and alleged member of the boogaloo extremist movement pleaded guilty Friday to fatally shooting a federal security officer in Oakland amid large 2020 protests against police brutality.

Steven Carrillo, 33, of Ben Lomond, California, changed his plea to guilty to a federal murder charge in the killing of David Patrick Underwood, a protective services officer, and to the attempted murder of Underwood’s colleague after federal prosecutors last month agreed not to seek the death penalty.

The two security officers were shot on May 29, 2020, while they stood in a guard shack in front of a federal building in downtown Oakland.

Dressed in an orange jumpsuit in federal court, Carrillo read from a plea agreement, admitting to posting messages on Facebook a day before the shooting asking if anyone was “down to boo” and stating he was ready to act and not just talk. He also admitted firing 19 rounds from a homemade AR-15 rifle.

“I aligned myself with the anti-government movement and wanted to carry out violent acts against federal law enforcement officers in particular,” Carrillo said.

A woman in a red dress and man in a gray suit hold hands while walking outside of a courthouse.
Angela Underwood Jacobs, left, the sister of slain federal security officer David Patrick Underwood, leaves the federal courthouse in San Francisco with her partner, Michael Jacobs, on Feb. 11, 2022, after witnessing Steven Carrillo plead guilty to the 2020 killing. (Alex Emslie/KQED)

Prosecutors on Jan. 31 said they would not seek the death penalty, but U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said Friday she is not convinced she will accept the plea agreement between prosecutors and defense lawyers that calls for a 41-year prison sentence.

Carrillo is scheduled to be sentenced on June 3, but Gonzalez Rogers warned that she could reject the plea agreement if she doesn't feel prosecutors and defense lawyers do enough to justify the sentence.

“I cannot accept a plea unless there was a sufficient independent factual basis for the plea,” she said.

And if she does accept the deal, Carrillo would go to trial and his admissions in court could be used against him, Gonzalez Rogers said.

Prosecutors have said Carrillo, of Santa Cruz, had ties to the boogaloo movement — a concept embraced by a loose network of gun enthusiasts and militia-style extremists. The alt-right group started on the internet predicated on the belief that there is an impending U.S. civil war, according to experts.

Authorities accused Carrillo of spraying a guard shack with bullets, killing Underwood, who was inside.

Underwood's sister, Angela Underwood Jacobs, called Carrillo a “domestic terrorist” during Friday's hearing.

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“Cowards like you fear true bravery,” she said, crying.

Underwood Jacobs told reporters she was glad Carrillo would be in prison.

“I think the world is a much safer place without Carrillo and his friends for that much, not walking around on the earth, not being free,” she said. “His actions caused my brother his life and he should not be free.”

Prosecutors said Robert Alvin Justus Jr., of Millbrae, drove the white van that Carrillo fired from. The pair are accused of driving to Oakland and taking advantage of the distraction afforded by people marching through the city’s downtown to protest the murder of George Floyd, who had been killed days earlier by a Minneapolis police officer.

A week after the shooting in Oakland, Carrillo allegedly ambushed sheriff’s deputies in Santa Cruz County who were responding to a report of a van containing firearms and bomb-making materials. Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, 38, was killed and several other law enforcement officials were wounded, according to authorities and court records.

Prosecutors in Santa Cruz charged Carrillo with a slew of felonies, including murder and attempted murder in connection to that killing.

Carrillo pleaded not guilty to Gutzwiller’s killing.

KQED's Alex Emslie contributed additional reporting.

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