Former Air Force Sergeant Pleads Guilty to Killing Federal Officer in California

A former U.S. Air Force sergeant who has been accused of fatally shooting a federal officer protecting a courthouse in California pleaded guilty on Friday to first-degree murder and attempted murder.

Steven Carrillo, a 33-year-old man of Ben Lomond, changed his plea to guilty to a federal murder charge in the drive-by shooting death of David Patrick Underwood and the attempted murder of Underwood’s colleague, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement. The men were shot on May 29, 2020, while they stood in front of a federal building in Oakland.

“Carrillo admitted that he aligned himself with an anti-government movement and wanted to carry out violent acts against federal law enforcement officers,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California said in the statement.

In the plea agreement read by Carrillo, he admitted to posting messages on Facebook that are apparently linked to the extremist “Boogaloo” movement. He posted the messages on May 28, one day before carrying out the deadly assault, asking if anyone is “down to boog.”

“I just wanna perpetuate the hate and violence towards the governments’ attack dogs” and “[this] is a great time to perpetuate the destruction of the government,” he admitted to posting on May 29, the day of the attack, also adding footage to Snapchat depicting anti-government paraphernalia and firearms, according to the plea agreement.

Carrillo also admitted to firing 19 rounds from a homemade AR-15 rifle from the back of a white van allegedly being driven by Robert Alvin Justus Jr., of Millbrae, who faces federal charges of murder and attempted murder in the case.

NTD Photo
A white van parked near the U.S. Courthouse in Oakland, Calif. on May 29, 2020, shortly before it was driven by a guard post. (FBI)
NTD Photo
Robert Alvin Justus Jr., who faces murder charges in the killing of federal officer David Patrick Underwood. (Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Office via AP; FBI)

The charges against Carrillo made him eligible for the death penalty, but prosecutors filed a notice of intent on Jan. 31, saying they won’t seek it.

On Friday, Carrillo “agreed and recommended to the court that a reasonable and appropriate disposition of this case would be 41 years in prison and a lifetime term of supervised release.”

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said she is not convinced that she will accept the plea agreement between prosecutors and defense lawyers calling for a 41-year prison sentence.

“I cannot accept a plea unless there was a sufficient independent factual basis for the plea,” she said.

Carillo is scheduled to be sentenced on June 3, but Gonzalez Rogers warned that she could reject the plea agreement if she doesn’t feel prosecutors and defense lawyers do enough to justify the sentence. And if she does, Carillo would go to trial and his admissions in court could be used against him, Gonzalez Rogers said.

According to court documents, Carrillo has ties to the “boogaloo” movement. Agents previously said in court documents that Carrillo appeared to use his own blood to write phrases on the hood of the car that he carjacked. The phrases included apparent references to the so-called boogaloo movement.

“In general, followers of the Boogaloo ideology may identify as militia and share a narrative of inciting a violent uprising against perceived government tyranny,” FBI agent Brett Woolard wrote in a criminal complaint (pdf).

Carrillo was arrested a week after the shooting in Oakland after he allegedly ambushed sheriff’s deputies in Santa Cruz County who were responding to a report of a van containing firearms and bomb-making materials. Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, 38, was killed and several other law enforcement officials were wounded, according to authorities and court records.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.