.Alleged Sheriff’s Sergeant Killer Waives Preliminary Hearing

The man who allegedly fatally shot Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller in Ben Lomond last year during a violent crime spree waived his preliminary hearing Monday in Santa Cruz County Superior Court.

The move means Steven Carrillo, who appeared in the courtroom of Judge Paul Burdick clad in red jail garb, sporting a beard and a black eye, can proceed directly to trial.

Burdick set Oct. 4 for an arraignment to set a trial date. Burdick also ordered Carrillo to remain in custody by the federal marshal with no bail. He is being held at the Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County.

Carrillo was in court Monday because Santa Cruz County District Attorney Jeff Rosell had filed an amended complaint of an additional attempted murder enhancement. 

Carrillo, aided by his defense team of Mark Briscoe and Larry Biggam, pleaded not guilty to the additional charge.

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Assistant District Attorney Johanna Schonfield and Chief Deputy District Attorney Tara George joined Rossell on the prosecution team.

On June 6, 2020, Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to a report of a man acting suspiciously on a turnout near Jamison Creek Road about five miles north of Boulder Creek with bomb-making materials inside a van. Deputies followed Carrillo, a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, to his home in nearby Ben Lomond where he allegedly ambushed Gutzwiller and another deputy with an AR-15 rifle as they approached his home. Carrillo, according to police reports, also ignited at least one bomb, injuring another deputy and a California Highway Patrol officer and triggering a massive law response from multiple counties.

Additionally, Carrillo and an accomplice, Robert Justus, allegedly fatally shot a federal security officer and injured another in Oakland on May 29. Justus surrendered five days later.

Along with the murder charges in both fatal shootings, Carrillo, 33, faces several weapons charges, numerous counts of attempted murder, carjacking, robbery, assault and special allegations.

“There are numerous charges,” Rosell said outside of court Monday. “Since he is facing federal charges, the ‘feds’ are the ones that are housing him now. This is an extremely strong case.”

When asked about the possibility of the death penalty, Rosell said, “We have left every option open—everything is one the table—as far as penalty, enhancement or charges.”

Burdick is currently working with the prosecution and the defense team on trying to have the trial take place in Dublin, Calif.


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Tarmo Hannula
Tarmo Hannula has been the lead photographer with The Pajaronian newspaper in Watsonville since 1997. He also reports on a wide range of topics, including police, fire, environment, schools, the arts and events. A fifth generation Californian, Tarmo was born in the Mother Lode of the Sierra (Columbia) and has lived in Santa Cruz County since the late 1970s. He earned a BA from UC Santa Cruz and has traveled to 33 countries.
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