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A Santa Cruz sheriff’s deputy was killed and two other police officers were injured after being ambushed during the pursuit of a suspect. They came under heavy gunfire and were barraged by multiple improvised explosives after exiting their vehicle.
38-year-old Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller was murdered in Ben Lomond, a town in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California while responding to a 911 call around 1:30pm about a suspicious van near Jamison Creek in Boulder Creek, reports CBS. The caller reportedly told the dispatcher that there were guns and explosives in the vehicle.
As soon as the vehicle arrived, Gutzwiller and the two deputies were immediately ambushed by gunfire and explosives in the heavily wooded residential area. Gutzwiller was grievously wounded and died in hospital. The other deputy, who has yet to be identified by police, was wounded by gunfire or shrapnel in the hand. The third deputy was struck by the suspect’s vehicle as he fled the scene.
"In my 32-year career, this is the worst day that I've ever experienced," said Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart.
"Damon showed up today to do his job, to keep our community safe, and his life was taken needlessly," Hart added. "That's a hard thing to process."
Hart described Gutzwiller as a “true hero,” who was beloved by his coworkers.
The suspect has since been identified as 38-year-old Steven Carrillo, who was shot during his attempt to ambush the police officers and is being treated for non-life threatening injuries at a hospital. Police say Carrillo, who was armed, was shot after he attempted to carjack a vehicle.
“Calls of a carjacking nearby soon followed as officers from departments throughout Santa Cruz County began arriving to the area, several of whom were involved in the arrest of the suspect, Steven Carrillo, who was reportedly armed, was shot during his arrest,” Hart said.
Carrillo will be charged with first-degree murder and other felonies.
The FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies are currently investigating.
“Words cannot express the pain we feel for Damon and his family,” Hart said, “He was the kind of person we all hope to be. Today, we lost a hero. We are grateful to have known him and we mourn with his family.”