Santa Cruz County Officer Killed in Ambush Shooting, Bombing

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

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

The suspect was identified as Steven Carrillo, 32, an active-duty U.S. Air Force sergeant, military cop and Ben Lomond resident. No further information about him was released.

According to Hart, deputies responded to a call around 1:30pm Saturday 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 Santa Cruz County DA is investigating the case.


  1. It is past time to modify the penalty phase and timeline to expedite the public hanging of criminals.
    David S. Wall

    • United States District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel has shoved his personal agenda down the throats of 40million Californians by single handedly stopping executions in California. His rationale is that the drug cocktail used at the San Quentin death chamber constitutes cruel and unusual punishment meted out against the cruel killers and rapists on death row , because it is slow and unreliable.
      The solution is fentanyl, 100 times more powerful than morphine. Administer ten times the usual fatal dose to these criminals. Bang, they’re dead in a couple of heartbeats, no pain, no anguish. You could do four or five executions a day and empty death row of its some 800 convicts in less than six months. Think of all the money that would be saved by not having to house and feed these as*holes who enjoy all their special security and privileges.

  2. Very tragic and, I would hope, a counterbalance to the current trendy wave of anti-police sentiment and a reminder of just how dangerous and unpredictable the job of policing is.
    Cut them some slack for Christ’s sake. Don’t be so stupid as to put cops in a position where they’re unsure of your intentions.

  3. Remember, Governor Newsom is adamant that despite the recent vote of the people to the contrary, the death penalty should not be an option. Not even for ambushing a police officer.

    • There hasn’t been death penalty case in Santa Cruz County for fifty years. The D.A. wouldn’t even try. Everyone agrees no Santa Cruz County jury would ever vote for a death sentence.

      It would have to be a federal charge.

  4. If cops want military grade weaponry, might as well see if they’re up for the challenge of a military grade target.

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