Steven Carrillo gets life in 2020 murder of Santa Cruz sheriff’s deputy Damon Gutzwiller

Steven Carrillo was sentenced Friday to life in prison for the murder of Santa Cruz County Sheriff's deputy Damon Gutzwiller.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Former Air Force sergeant Steven Carrillo was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his 2020 murder of Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller in a shootout in Carrillo’s hometown of Ben Lomond. “There can be no justice for what you have done,” Gutzwiller’s widow said in a courtroom statement addressed to Carrillo. “They could kill you a million times over and it would never be enough.”

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Steven Carrillo, the admitted killer of Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Deputy Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, will spend the rest of his life in prison.

On Friday, Carrillo was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the 2020 murder of Gutzwiller in Ben Lomond.

Before the sentencing, Carrillo listened to several statements, from the surviving law enforcement officers injured and/or traumatized by the incident, and from Gutzwiller’s widow, Favi Del Real. Carrillo sat still and stared straight ahead during the statements.

County sheriff’s deputy Emma Ramponi, who was present at the shooting, also read a statement. She thanked her fellow deputy Alex Spencer, who was injured in the attack: “I want to thank Alex, because his actions helped save my life.”

Spencer was not present at the hearing, but his statement was read by his wife. California Highway Patrol officers Luis Rodriguez and Michael Estey, issued statements that were read aloud in court by the prosecutor.

“You are a coward. I’ve come to the conclusion I cannot forgive you,” Rodriguez, who was injured in the attack, said in his statement. “The trauma I hope to overcome completely. But I don’t know if that’s possible.”

Del Real also addressed the courtroom and spoke to Carrillo directly. Through tears, she spoke about her two young children, one of whom was born after her husband’s death. “My children will mourn the loss of their father, through every birthday.”

With Steven Carrillo at far right, Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller's widow, Faviola Del Real, speaks during Friday's proceedings.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

She then addressed Carrillo directly: “There can be no justice for what you have done. They could kill you a million times over and it would never be enough.”

Also speaking before the court was Sam Patzke, a civilian who confronted an armed and panicky Carrillo during the shooting, tackling and disarming him. Patzke had been known as “John Doe 3" in the case until he came forward at the hearing. Patzke was awarded the Sheriff’s Office Civilian Distinguished Service Medal, the highest civilian award from the sheriff’s office.

Superior Court Judge Paul Burdick thanked Patzke for his actions in stopping Carrillo during the crime spree. “This community owes you a major debt,” he said. “I’m sure there’s a job waiting for you at the sheriff’s department.”

Several of the victim impact statements referred to Carrillo as a “terrorist” for his actions on June 6, 2020. Carrillo was also sentenced to provide restitution to the victims of his crime.

Burdick closed the hearing by addressing the agreement Carrillo had signed to waive his right to an appeal and make his prison terms concurrent versus consecutive; Carrillo had also pleaded guilty to nine felony charges, including the attempted murder of other law enforcement officers. “The law recognizes that Carrillo has only one life to live, and this waiver ensures that he will, in fact, spend the rest of his life in prison,” said Burdick. "[Carrillo] will never leave the confines of the California Department of Corrections.”

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On social media, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office wrote that Carrillo was being taken to jail bound in handcuffs that belonged to Gutzwiller.

Carrillo, a former Air Force sergeant, pleaded guilty to state charges of murder in the shooting death of Gutzwiller on June 6, 2020. Gutzwiller, 38, was among the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputies who responded to a report of a suspicious van on Jamison Creek Road in Carrillo’s native Ben Lomond. As deputies tailed the van, Carrillo opened fire, killing Gutzwiller and wounding two others.

In an investigation first published in February 2021, ProPublica and FRONTLINE uncovered more than 20 members of the...

Carrillo carjacked a vehicle while attempting to flee but was eventually stopped by a civilian, shot by law enforcement, and arrested. Carrillo left evidence in the vehicle that tied him to the then-emerging, heavily armed, anti-government extremist group that claims to be preparing for another civil war: the Boogaloo Bois.

In June, Carrillo was sentenced to 41 years in prison on federal charges for murder and attempted murder for his role in a drive-by shooting on federal property in Oakland. Those crimes took place a week before Carrillo’s shootout with deputies in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Later in June, Carrillo pleaded guilty to state murder and attempted murder charges in the Gutzwiller case. Carrillo agreed to the plea deal in exchange for eliminating the death penalty in his sentencing.