.Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Deputy Killed in Ambush Identified

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputy killed Saturday afternoon when he was ambushed by a gunman has been identified as Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, 38.

Gutzwiller was a father of a young child, and was expecting a new child soon, said Sheriff Jim Hart.

The death has shaken the close-knit department, where Gutzwiller worked since 2006 and was a “good man and a good police officer,” Hart said. 

“In my 32-year career, this is the worst day that I’ve ever experienced,” Hart said. “He was a true hero. In this era that we’re in, what you want to see in a police officer—compassion, caring, someone who truly loves his job who wants to help people, that’s what Damon was.”

Hart said he knew Gutzwiller before that, when he was a volunteer with the Sheriff’s Office.

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“I watched him grow into a great man and a great police officer,” Hart said. 

The suspect was identified as Steven Carrillo, 32, a Ben Lomond resident. The Sheriff’s Office released no further information about him.

According to Hart, deputies responded to a call around 1:30pm of a suspicious van parked in a turnout near Jamison Creek in the town of Boulder Creek.

The caller reported that they saw guns and bomb-making materials inside the van, Hart said.

The van was leaving when deputies arrived, and they followed and found it at a home on Waldeberg Road in Ben Lomond. 

As deputies began investigating, Carrillo ambushed them with gunfire and multiple improvised explosive devices, Hart said. 

Carrillo reportedly threw several explosives at the deputies, he said.

A resident who would only identify himself as Tim said he saw a man running from the scene who said another man had just tried to carjack his dark green Porsche 911.

“I was surprised that he was so calm,” Tim said. “Because he told me the man had a gun. He was so mellow. Next I heard yelling and screaming and there were cops on the ground with long guns. It was like the military.”

Gutzwiller was shot and taken to a trauma center, where he was pronounced dead. Another deputy was either shot or struck by shrapnel, and then struck by Carrillo as he fled in his vehicle.

Carrillo then allegedly used a gun to carjack a vehicle, and then tried to carjack another vehicle, Hart said.

Police officers from departments throughout Santa Cruz County responded in the immediate aftermath of the attack, and were soon followed by law enforcement officials from as far away as San Francisco.

Carrillo was shot during his arrest, and was treated and released from the hospital. He faces murder charges, along with several other felonies. 

Gutzwiller was a patrol supervisor.

The Sheriff’s Office is planning a vigil at 2:26pm Sunday, which is the time the call came that an officer was down.

The District Attorney’s Office is investigating the case.


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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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