Anonymous Ben Lomond resident helped tackle, detain ambush shooting suspect, sheriff says

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Tuesday, June 9, 2020
Anonymous Ben Lomond resident helped tackle, detain ambush shooting suspect, sheriff says
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A woman who captured the incident on her cell phone spoke with ABC7 News about what she saw.

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KGO) -- The Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Department had some help detaining and arresting the man accused of ambush shooting and killing a deputy in Ben Lomond Saturday.

An active-duty U.S. Air Force sergeant, 32-year-old Steven Carrillo, has been arrested on suspicion of fatally shooting Santa Cruz Sheriff's Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, 38, and wounding two other officers.

MORE: 'Heart of our little family': Wife, colleagues grieve Santa Cruz sergeant killed in ambush

Carrillo was detained with the help of a Ben Lomond resident, Sheriff Jim Hart said in a press conference Monday.

The sheriff described a chaotic scene Saturday afternoon in the Santa Cruz mountains with pipe bombs detonating and poor radio and cell signal while they searched for Carrillo. Carrillo ran into a Ben Lomond resident's yard wearing an AR-15 on his chest, Hart said, and demanded the resident's car keys.

The resident calmly went into his house, came back and handed him a key. When Carrillo turned to leave, the resident tackled him to the ground.

"At that time, the suspect reached into his pocket and pulled out a pipe bomb and tried to ignite the pipe bomb while being held down," Hart described. "This resident was able to knock the pipe bomb out of his hand. Then the suspect reached into his waistband and pulled out a pistol."

Hart said the resident successfully wrestled that away, as well.

I-TEAM: Air Force sergeant arrested on suspicion for killing of deputy in Santa Cruz County

Boulder Creek resident, Clara Ricabal was standing nearby. She was using her cell phone to record police activity in the area.

"I was just videoing that, then all of a sudden we started hearing the cries for help," she explained.

Ricabal, another man named Eric and his pitbull rushed over to help the other resident.

"He was having a hard time keeping him under control with that handgun pointed at him," she said about the suspect and the resident.

Immediately, Ricabal realized the man pinned to the ground was the suspect wanted for killing 38-year-old Sgt. Gutzwiller and injuring another.

More nearby residents jumped into action and helped detain the suspect until sheriff's deputies could arrive on scene.

RELATED: FBI investigates possible link between deadly officer shootings in Santa Cruz Co., Oakland

"It was a remarkable, remarkable heroic thing that resident did," said Sheriff Hart. "He doesn't want to be named and doesn't want any recognition."

The violent encounter started Saturday when deputies responded to a 911 call around 1:30 p.m. about a suspicious van in Ben Lomond. The caller said there were guns and bomb-making devices inside, Hart said.

When deputies arrived, they were ambushed by gunfire and explosives after getting out of their vehicle.

Sergeant Damon Gutzwiller was wounded and later died at a hospital. Sheriff Hart said Monday another deputy, whose identity isn't being revealed, was also shot in the chest, but a bulletproof vest stopped the bullet. Still, he suffered internal trauma as a result. He was also hit by shrapnel from a bomb that went off and by the suspect's vehicle as he fled. He was in the hospital in stable condition Monday.

A third officer from the California Highway Patrol was shot in his hand.

Watch: Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office details resident's heroic act

On Monday, families in the area added to a growing makeshift memorial outside of the sheriff's office. Families told ABC7 News, the actions by residents were reflective of the tight knit community.

"It was shocking to hear the story," Santa Cruz resident, Stacey Iverson said. "But in a way it didn't surprise me. I feel like it's exactly how people around here would respond.

Ricabal also shared how the community came together for the man named Eric and his pitbull. She said the two were in a transitional phase, looking for a permanent place to reside.

"Now hopefully, the community can help him stay in this community because he had been kind of helping, but not permanently here, and looking for a place," she described.

Carrillo was being treated at the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. Carrillo will be charged with first-degree murder, Hart said.

RELATED: FBI seeking help identifying suspect's van in Oakland Federal Building shooting

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.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said Gutzwiller was a beloved 14-year veteran of the force.

"There's a hole in all of our hearts now." he said at a vigil Sunday that drew more than a thousand mourners.

The FBI is investigating a possible link between the Ben Lomond shooting and the attack on the Federal Building in downtown Oakland that killed a security officer on May 29. The suspect in both cases was described as having a white van filled with weapons.

Special Agent John Bennett declined to give further details on any possible links, saying, "This is a complex and active investigation."

Since Saturday, law enforcement have been sorting through a large quantity of bombs, bomb making equipment and ammunition found at the scene of the crime.

Carrillo will be arraigned Friday afternoon.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.