SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) — A Northern California sheriff’s deputy was killed and two law enforcement officers wounded Saturday when they were ambushed with gunfire and explosives while pursuing a suspect, authorities said.
The U.S. Air Force confirmed Sunday that the suspect was an active duty sergeant stationed at Travis Air Force Base.
Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, 38, was shot and killed in Ben Lomond, an unincorporated area near Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said. A second deputy was injured, and a third officer from the California Highway Patrol was shot in his hand, Hart said.
Gutzwiller “was a beloved figure here at the sheriff’s office,” the sheriff said.
“Damon showed up today to do his job, to keep this community safe, and his life was taken needlessly,” a visibly shaken Hart said.
The suspect, Steven Carrillo, 32, was shot during his arrest and was being treated at the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, Hart said. The Sheriff’s Department and the FBI are investigating.
A Travis Air Force Base spokesman confirmed Sunday that Carrillo had arrived at Travis Air Force Base in June 2018 and was a member of the 60th Security Forces Squadron. Carrillo’s wife Monika Leigh Scott Carrillo, who was also in the Air Force, was found dead in an off-base hotel in May 2018 while she was stationed in South Carolina. She was 30. Her death was investigated by the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, in coordination with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and ruled a suicide, according to the Air Force.
On Saturday in Santa Cruz County, deputies responded to a 911 call around 1:30 p.m. about a suspicious van. The caller said there were guns and bomb-making devices inside, Hart said.
When deputies arrived, the van pulled away and the deputies followed. The van went down a driveway at Carrillo’s home and the deputies were ambushed by gunfire and explosives after getting out of their vehicle.
Gutzwiller was wounded and later died at a hospital. Another deputy was wounded by gunfire or shrapnel and struck by a vehicle as the suspect fled.
Carrillo attempted to carjack a vehicle and was wounded while being arrested.
Hart said Carrillo was taken to the hospital for treatment and would be charged with first-degree murder.
Gov. Gavin Newsom extended condolences to Gutzwiller’s family and ordered flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff in honor of the slain deputy.
“He will be remembered as a hero who devoted his life to protecting the community and as a loving husband and father,” Newsom said in a statement.
The shooting shocked Ben Lomond, a town of about 6,000 people tucked up in the Santa Cruz mountains.
Resident Kathy Crocker brought a bouquet to the sheriff’s office as Hart gave a news conference about the shootings.
“It just breaks my heart that this keeps happening,” she said, as teary-eyed deputies entered the building.