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Trial underway for Boogaloo extremist accused of planning murder of federal officers

Robert Justus faces charges of first degree murder and aiding in attempted murder of federal officials during protests in May 2020 in Oakland, California.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (CN) —  A member of an anti-government militia group, accused of aiding a man convicted of murdering a federal guard during George Floyd protests in Oakland, faced his first day on trial in federal court.

Robert Justus of Millbrae, California, is being tried as the accomplice of former Air Force Sgt. Steven Carrillo, who pleaded guilty to two counts in February 2022. Justus is accused of first degree murder and aiding an attempted murder of federal employees. 

Justus has pleaded not guilty and it is not clear if he will testify during the trial. He appeared Friday in court in San Francisco, dressed in a suit, facing a jury and U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.

The United States Courthouse located in Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building in Oakland, Calif. (Natalie Hanson / Courthouse News)

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Bostic said in his opening statements that the government's evidence will show Justus "was exactly where he wanted to be, doing exactly what he wanted to be doing.” 

Bostic described how on at 9:40 p.m. on May 29, 2020, at 12th and Jefferson Streets in Oakland, Justus and Carrillo parked a white van across the street from two security guards outside the federal courthouse during a protest of George Floyd’s murder. Justus drove the van through the intersection and Carrillo fired on the guards with a black AR-15 weapon — killing federal guard David Patrick Underwood and seriously wounding his partner Sombat Mifkovic.  

Law enforcement officers located Carrillo’s residence in Ben Lomond, and arrested Carillo on June 6, 2020, Bostic said. Justus turned himself in and was arrested by the FBI on June 11, 2020. 

Bostic said the case revolves around Justus' motivations, and the government's evidence that he was part of the Boogaloo Boys movement, united by the desire to spark a second civil war and overthrow the government. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has said the Grizzly Scouts and Boogaloo Boy groups are extremist groups with members identified in Alameda County, and federal prosecutors say the Grizzly Scouts organized a small militia in spring 2020 with the goal to attack law enforcement.

“These statements are going to show to you that Justus had anti-government attitudes and he had a desire to engage in violent acts against government personnel,” Bostic said. 

He showed online posts from 2019 where Justus wrote: “I really want to go burn down some fed buildings” and saying to Carrillo, who advocated for violence during protests in Oakland, “Let’s boogie.”

Bostic said that after the shooting, Justus attempted to destroy evidence and posted more aggressive content online, advocating for violence against law enforcement officials. 

The prosecution's first witness, Federal Protective Service inspector Charles Clemons, described the scene of the fatal shooting and watched footage of gunfire erupting from the van. He recalled the protest taking place at the time, down the block from the courthouse, involving several hundred people. 

Clemons said while on duty that night, he saw the van park haphazardly for about 30 seconds and "the driver was just there staring at us.” After the driver took off, he said he heard within moments on his radio that officers had been shot. He described arriving at the scene to find Underwood unconscious on the ground and Mifkovic lying against the building, pointing out where the van had gone.

Justus’ defense attorney Shaffy Moeel, of Moeel, Lah and Fakhoury LLP, said in her opening statements that Justus was in custody battles over his children months before the shooting. She described Justus as seeking an anonymous outlet to vent frustrations with his life and with the government on social media. 

“His personal life was in upheaval,” she said. 

“It seemed to Robert that the former (presidential) administration was hell-bent on making everyone’s lives worse. He was alone at home scrolling through Facebook with these feelings, late at night. All he had was his ability to say things on Facebook.”

Moeel said Justus “got caught up” with Carrillo through Facebook, and that the events of May 29, 2020, were Carrillo's plan. She said that when they met that night, Justus was shocked that Carrillo brought guns and body armor and was intimidated into driving his van. 

“He felt he had no other choice. He got in the driver’s seat, and he drove,” Moeel said. 

The trial is set to last into October. 

Carrillo initially pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder, but pleaded guilty in December 2020. He said he deliberately attacked the security officers and intended to kill them, and admitted to aligning himself with the anti-government Grizzly Scouts and choosing Oakland to assassinate police officers during protests. In June 2022, Rogers sentenced Carrillo to 41 years in prison.

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