Staff Sgt. Steven Carrillo, the airman who law enforcement believes killed a sheriff’s deputy in Northern California Saturday, is the leader of a team of highly trained Air Mobility Command security forces.
According to information released Monday by the Air Force Personnel Center, Carrillo, who is part of the 60th Security Forces Squadron at Travis Air Force Base in California, is a Phoenix Raven Team Leader.
AMC’s website said that its Phoenix Raven program, which was created in 1997, is made up of teams of specially trained security forces personnel, charged with providing security to airlift and tanker aircraft traveling through highly dangerous areas.
Phoenix Raven teams consist of between two and six security forces airmen, deployed as aircrew on AMC missions when the aircraft are traveling to or from airfields where the security level is unknown, or when local threats such as terrorists or criminals require more security. The teams provide close-in security, advise air crews on safety measures, conduct risk assessments at air fields, and help out air crew when they’re not providing security.
Carrillo was arrested Saturday on suspicion of fatally shooting Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, 38, of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department and wounding two other officers. Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said Gutzwiller and other deputies were ambushed with gunfire and explosives when they responded to a 911 call at around 1:30 p.m. about a suspicious van in the area. The person who called said there were guns and bomb-making devices inside the van.
“He was very intent on killing these police officers," Hart said at a news conference. “They had no idea that they were about to get into this firefight.”
The van pulled away when deputies arrived, Hart said. The deputies followed the van into a home’s driveway, only to be ambushed when they emerged from their vehicle.
Hart said Carrillo, 32, then tried to carjack someone and was shot during his arrest. He was being treated at a hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. He is expected to be charged with first-degree murder.
A resident saw Carrillo in his backyard and confronted him. Carrillo, armed with the AR-15, demanded the man’s car keys. The man retrieved the keys, gave them to Carrillo and when Carrillo turned away, the man tackled him and the rifle fell away from him.
As they struggled, Carrillo pulled a pipe bomb from his pants and tried unsuccessfully to light it. He then pulled out a pistol and the man was able to knock it out of his hands and then subdue him as neighbors came to help, Hart said.
“This guy could have done a lot more damage in our community,” Hart said.
The man who subdued Carrillo does not want to be publicly identified, Hart said, but he plans to award him a medal.
FBI investigators in San Francisco are working with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department Carrillo to try to find out a possible motive in Saturday’s attack. Authorities are also trying to determine if Carrillo was also involved in the fatal attack on a Federal Protective Service officer, and the critical wounding of another officer, outside of the U.S. courthouse in Oakland on May 29. Both attacks involved a shooter in a van.
Carrillo’s wife, A1C Monika Carrillo, was found dead in an off-base hotel room near Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina in May 2018. The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office and Office of Special Investigations investigated her death and ruled it a suicide, OSI spokeswoman Linda Card said in a Monday email.
Carrillo arrived at Travis Air Force Base the month after her death, the military said. Bennett said it’s believed Carrillo was in California at the time of the suicide and he’s not a suspect.
Carrillo entered active duty in February 2009, and his decorations include the Air Force Achievement Medal, AFPC said. Carrillo had no record of disciplinary issues during his military career. He was deployed to Kuwait for four months in 2019, according to the Air Force.
This story included information from the Associated Press.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.