Former Air Force Sergeant Steven Carrillo has previously pleaded guilty in federal court to the May 2020 murder of a federal security guard in Oakland, for which he was sentenced to 41 years behind bars . And he pleaded guilty to killing a Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputy days later, and that case is still ongoing. But now we get a bit more of Carrillo’s violent frenzy timeline, inspired by the Boogaloo movement.
How Carrillo came to abandon his military career, get sucked into the dark recesses of Facebook Boogaloo groups, and quickly escalate into murder is a story we’ve had in spades so far, via various court records and federal press releases. The Chronicle published a long article on Sunday that mostly repeats what we already know about Carrillo’s case, but includes some new details as well as reports from the courtroom where Carrillo was sentenced last month.
Some key details relate to the involvement of four men believed to be accomplices to Carrillo’s spree, even though they did not physically participate in his ultimate acts of violence. These four men – Jessie Rush, 29, of Turlock, Simon Ybarra, 23, of Los Gatos, Kenny Miksch, 21, of San Lorenzo; and Robert Blancas, a 33-year-old passenger, all reportedly met Carrillo online, through a Facebook group called K/alifornia Kommando, around the start of the pandemic in 2020.
Rush, himself a “badly damaged” Army veteran according to court documents, formed a small militia group which he dubbed the 1st California Grizzly Scouts, and he invited several other members of the group to Turlock to shooting training and “tactical training”. And he and other Grizzly Scouts have discussed the idea of pitting law enforcement against antifa groups, with the goal of inflicting harm on both, the Chronicle reports.
Experts say Boogaloo supporters have been largely nonviolent — lots of purposeful talk and training and scary gatherings in their Hawaiian shirts and guns — but this case shows how it only takes one unhinged individual to s inspired by all this violent rhetoric to have a count of the dead.
It’s unclear whether all of Carrillo’s interactions with three of the men were conducted entirely online, but investigators say Ybarra, at least, met Carrillo in person in Los Gatos on May 27, 2020, days before the night of protest in Oakland. which Carrillo would choose to use as cover for the filming of “un fed”. That official was 53-year-old Homeland Security Officer David Patrick Underwood.
Ybarra allegedly watched Carrillo assemble an unobtainable AR-15-style rifle that he would use in the murder, as he stood in the parking lot of a gas station. And while Carrillo contacted Ybarra the next day to urge him to join him in Oakland, Ybarra apparently never responded – and Carrillo ended up turning to another Grizzly Scout he had never met offline, Robert Justus Jr., who agreed to drive the van while Carrillo took his photos. (Justus’ case is still pending.)
Rush, Ybarra, Miksch and Blancas all pleaded guilty last fall to charges that included destroying evidence — they allegedly tried to scrub their phones after Carrillo’s binge — and as the Chronicle reports, a federal judge nearly rejected their pleas, suggesting that the court attached sentences were insufficient. But he ultimately agreed to the sentences – one year for Rush and six months each for Ybarra and Miksch – saying Rush’s mental health and the young age of the other two were mitigating factors in his decision. (It is unclear how Blancas was sentenced.)
The federal judge who accepted Carrillo’s guilty plea was also reluctant to accept the 41-year-old’s plea deal, but mental illness was also a factor. Apparently, Carrillo was diagnosed with mental illness during his initial imprisonment in 2020 and has been on medication ever since. The disease was not named in court records. His lawyer told the court that “every day he becomes a little clearer about what happened and the grief he feels”.
Another detail we learn concerns how Carrillo seemed so prepared for the Santa Cruz County deputies to arrive at his home, where he ambushed them a week after the Oakland murder. According to court documents, some of which are still sealed, it seems likely that members of the Grizzly Scouts were monitoring police radio in the area and alerted Carrillo that his van had been spotted and authorities were on the way.
On June 6, 2020, Carrillo allegedly shot and killed the Sheriff Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, 38, and injured several other MPs after ambushing them and setting off some improvised explosive device.
The Chronicle suggests Carrillo pleaded not guilty to Gutzwiller’s murder, but the opposite was widely reported just a month ago – Carrillo pleaded guilty on June 27, as reported here and elsewhere, in exchange for a sentence to life without parole. It is not clear if this was an error in the Chronicle article, or if Carrillo has since changed his plea.
A hearing in the Santa Cruz case is scheduled for August 26.
Previously: Ex-Air Force sergeant pleads guilty to killing Santa Cruz deputy