OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) — Two men have been charged in the murder of federal officer David Patrick Underwood, who was shot and killed while guarding the federal courthouse in Oakland as protesters took to nearby streets to demonstrate against racial injustice and police brutality.
The alleged gunman, Steven Carrillo, 32, is an Air Force sergeant stationed at Travis Air Force Base.
The Oakland attack occurred during a protest over the death George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Underwood, a Federal Protective Services officer for the Department of Homeland Security, was standing watch with another guard outside the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse on May 29.
Around 9:45 p.m., a white Ford cargo van pulled up and someone inside began firing on them. Underwood was killed, and his colleague wounded.
Carrillo is suspected of ties to the right-wing extremist movement Boogaloo, formed around opposition to gun buybacks that soon grew into an anti-government internet meme promoting violent civil war through militias. Boogaloo is also known by the alternate name “Big Igloo.”
“The Boogaloo term is used by extremists to reference a violent uprising or impending civil war in the United States,” U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson said.
Law enforcement recovered from a vehicle registered to Carrillo a ballistic vest with a patch bearing an American flag. The stars on the flag were replaced by the image of an igloo and one of the stripes by a Hawaiian motif that is thought to be another Boogaloo symbol.
A privately made firearm with no markings or serial number, described as a “machine gun with a silencer attached to its barrel” was also found.
Carrillo was arrested on June 6 in Ben Lomond after ambushing deputies from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s office, killing Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller. They were responding to a witness report of a white van containing firearms and bomb-making materials at Carrillo’s residence. Another officer remains hospitalized.
After shooting Gutzwiller, Carrillo fled the scene and carjacked a vehicle on nearby Highway 9.
Local news reported that Ben Lomond residents eventually nabbed Carrillo and held him until police arrived. Carrillo had also scrawled the word “boog” in his own blood on the hood of a car he’d stolen.
Robert Alvin Justus, Jr., 30, is suspected of driving the van on May 29. He was arrested June 11 by the FBI and made his initial court appearance yesterday on charges of aiding and abetting Underwood’s murder and attempted murder of a second federal officer.
Anderson said Justus was seen on video getting out of the van and walking around for ten minutes, “suggesting that he was conducting surveillance.”
According to a criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday, Justus’ parents took him to meet with the FBI at the federal building in San Francisco.
Justus told agents that he had met Carrillo on Facebook and they arranged for Carrillo to give Justus a ride to the Oakland protest.
Justus said he declined to use the body armor and firearm Carrillo gave him, and “did not want to participate in the murder, but that he felt that he had to participate because he was trapped in the van with Carrillo.”
He said Carrillo opened the passenger-side sliding door and began shooting, allegedly saying as they drove away, “Did you see how they fucking fell?” They then drove to Millbrae, where Justus lives, and Carrillo told him not to tell anyone or brag about what had happened. Justus said he got rid of the clothing he was wearing and erased all communications with Carrillo from his phone.
FBI Special Agent Brett Woolard said in his affidavit that he believes Justus intended to participate in the Oakland murder, and that he lied in his interview.
“I reviewed surveillance video in this case, which shows Justus walking on foot through downtown Oakland prior to the homicide. He could have walked away from the van and not returned, or he could have reported Carrillo and his plans to a nearby law enforcement officer,” Woolard said.
FBI Special Agent John Bennett said the pair took advantage of the protest on May 29 to drive to Oakland and commit murder.
“We believe Carrillo and Justus chose this date because the planned protest in Oakland provided an opportunity for them to target multiple law enforcement and to avoid apprehension due to the large crowds attending the demonstrations,” Bennett said.
“We believe messages exchanged between Carrillo, Justus and others that day before the shooting in Oakland indicate a plan to travel to Oakland and attack federal law enforcement officers. There is no evidence that these men had any intention to join the demonstration in Oakland. They came to Oakland to kill cops.”
Carrillo was charged Tuesday morning with murder and attempted murder.
Carrillo faces the death penalty if convicted of the murder, along with a maximum of 20 years in prison for attempted murder. Justus faces the same penalty for attempted murder.