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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

FBI probes link between fatal shootings of federal officer, deputy

The FBI has launched an investigation into whether the fatal shooting of a Santa Cruz police officer is connected to a separate incident in Oakland that left a federal protection officer dead and another critically hurt. 

READ MORE: Philadelphia police inspector applauded by colleagues after turning himself in for assault on protester

Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, 38, was ambushed and killed in the line of duty Saturday afternoon. Law officials are now looking into possible connections between this case and the death of federal officer Dave Patrick Underwood, who was gunned down on May 29, reports. 

Investigators said both cases involved a shooter in a van. The suspected driver and gunman is U.S. Air Force sergeant Steven Carrillo who is believed to have been motivated by his support of Black Lives Matter. 

“They were ambushed with gunfire and multiple improvised explosives,” said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart

Carrillo, 32, was shot during his arrest and remains hospitalized, according to reports.  Authorities say he used guns and detonated explosives during his ambush on Gutzwiller and another sheriff’s deputy, near his home in Ben Lomond, in Santa Cruz County, California.

Gutzwiller was killed and the second deputy remains hospitalized with serious injuries.

Hart said both were investigating after a 911 about a suspicious white van containing weapons and explosives. The same van was reportedly captured on surveillance cameras. 

Meanwhile, late last month, a federal security officer in Oakland was fatally shot in an ambush involving a white van. Federal investigators are now trying to determine if both cases are linked to Carrillo.

On his Facebook page, Carillo, who commanded an elite protection unit, was critical of law enforcement’s response to police killings and Black Lives Matter protesters.

“Who needs to start riots when you have police to do it for you,” Carillo posted last Friday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. 

He also posted a meme on his Instagram page, reports ABC7News,  that read:

“I’ll never let racist white people make me forget about the dope white people I know exist. I love y’all.” Fist emojis of varying skin tones were part of the meme and Carillo had crossed those out, writing “The only race that matters, the human race.’

A friend of Carillo says those who knew him are stunned, even though they knew he was having some trouble processing his wife Monika’s death by suicide in an off-base hotel two years ago.

“A lot of regret, I think was there and it was just challenging for him,” retired Air Force military policeman Justin Ehrhardt told ABC. “But even with all that none of us the people I talked to who were stationed with him even once thought this would happen at all.”

Gutzwiller was a 14-year veteran and he leaves behind a pregnant wife and young child. 

READ MORE: Florida police union offers to hire officers accused of misconduct

“When I think about community policing and how we police here in Santa Cruz County, Damon is the picture of community policing,” Hart said. “He was kind, caring, patient, empathetic. He could take enforcement action when he needed to, but he would rather communicate his way through any problem that was in front of him.”

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