SANTA CRUZ, Calif.—A Santa Cruz County, California, sheriff’s deputy was killed, and two other law enforcement officers were wounded when they were ambushed by gunfire and explosives on June 6 while responding to a report of suspicious activity in the area, authorities said.
Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, 38, was shot and killed in Ben Lomond, a heavily wooded area near Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart said. A second deputy was injured by either gunfire or shrapnel from an improvised explosive device before being hit by a vehicle, and a third officer, from the California Highway Patrol, was shot in the hand while attempting to stop the suspecting carjacking of another vehicle, Hart said.
“In my 32-year career, this is my worst day I’ve ever experienced,” Hart said. “Today, we lost one of our own, and he was a true hero.
“Words cannot express the pain we feel for Damon and his family. He was the kind of person we all hope to be.”
The department described him as a courageous, intelligent, sensitive, and caring man. Gutzwiller had been with the sheriff’s office since 2006.
His wife is currently expecting their second child.
The suspect, who has been identified as Steven Carrillo, was shot during the arrest and is being treated at the hospital, Hart said. He’s facing murder charges, assault with a deadly weapon, and carjacking, among other charges. The sheriff’s department and the FBI are investigating.
About 1:30 p.m., authorities received a call about a suspicious van. The caller said they saw guns and bomb-making devices, Hart said.
When deputies arrived, the van left and the sheriffs followed. As deputies began investigating, they were ambushed with gunfire, Hart said. After Gutzwiller was shot, the suspect confronted CHP officers, carjacked a vehicle, and attempted to carjack a second vehicle.
Hart said, “Damon showed up today to do his job, to keep this community safe, and his life was taken needlessly.”
The sheriff’s office is asking the community to remain vigilant and is continuing to investigate if there are any others involved.
Resident Kathy Crocker brought a bouquet to the sheriff’s office as Hart gave a news conference about the shootings.
“It just breaks my heart that this keeps happening,” she said, as teary-eyed deputies entered the building.
Hart said there will be a vigil for Gutzwiller on June 7 at the flag pole in front of the sheriff’s office at 2:26 p.m.—the time the call came in about a deputy down.
The shooting shocked the small community of Ben Lomond, a town of about 6,000 people tucked up in the Santa Cruz mountains.
The Epoch Times contributed to this report.