Northern California sheriffs deputy killed in ambush shooting, bombing
Two other law enforcement officers were injured in the attack.
June 7, 2020, 3:49 PM
6 min read
6 min read
A 38-year-old Northern California sheriff’s deputy was killed and two other law enforcement officers were injured on Saturday when they were ambushed by a suspect wielding a rifle and improvised explosives, authorities said.
Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, 38, of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office was shot to death when he responded to a 911 call of a suspicious van parked on the side of a road near Ben Lomond, California, about 35 miles west of San Jose, officials said.
“In my 32-year career, this is my worst day I’ve ever experienced,” Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said at a news conference on Saturday evening. “Today we lost one of our own and he was a true hero.”
He said Gutzwiller, who joined the sheriff’s office in 2006, is survived by a young child and a pregnant wife.
Hart said a caller contacted a 911 dispatcher at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday to report seeing guns and bomb-making material inside a suspicious van parked off the road in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
He said Gutzwiller and other sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene just as the van was pulling away. They followed the van to a house in Ben Lomond and as they approached the van gunfire rang out.
“As deputies began investigating, they were ambushed with gunfire and multiple improvised explosives,” Hart said.
He said another deputy was either shot or struck by bomb shrapnel and was hit by the van as the suspect drove out of the driveway of the home.
Hart said that within minutes after the attack, 911 dispatchers received multiple calls from people reporting a carjacking nearby and officers from police agencies throughout Santa Cruz County raced to the scene.
He said the suspect, who he identified as Steven Carrillo, was arrested after being shot and wounded. He said a California Highway Patrol officer was also shot in the hand during the ordeal.
Carrillo was taken to a local hospital where he was treated and released to the custody of sheriff’s deputies.
The FBI and the Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office are investigating the incident.
Hart said Carillo was arrested on charges of murder, assault with a deadly weapon, carjacking “and a myriad of other charges.”
“There’s a lot that we don’t know at this point. It’s still a very fluid situation,” Hart said. “I ask that the community be patient as we go through this investigation and the grieving process.”
Hart said Gutzwiller’s colleagues are expected to hold a vigil for him in front of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office headquarters on Sunday at 2:36 p.m. PST, the time the call came on Saturday that an officer was down.
The sheriff described Gutzwiller as a “beloved figure” who started his career in law enforcement as a volunteer with the sheriff’s office.
“In this era that we’re in, when you think about what you want to see in a police officer, compassion, caring, somebody who truly loves his job, who wants to help people, that’s what Damon was,” Hart said. “He was good man and a good police officer.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom and his wife, Jennifer, released a statement expressing their shock and dismay over the killing of Gutzwiller.
“Jennifer and I extend our heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and coworkers of Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sergeant Damon Gutzwiller, who was tragically killed while on duty,” the governor’s statement reads. “He will be remembered as a hero who devoted his life to protecting the community and as a loving husband and father.”