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Air Force Sergeant With Ties to Extremist Group Charged in Federal Officer’s Death

An Air Force sergeant linked to an anti-government movement was charged with murder and attempted murder on Tuesday in the shooting death of a federal security officer outside a courthouse in Oakland, Calif., last month.

The sergeant had expressed his allegiance to the so-called boogaloo movement by writing with his own blood on the hood of a white Toyota Camry and had used the recent protests against racial injustice as a cover to attack law enforcement, according to the F.B.I.

Staff Sgt. Steven Carrillo, 32, is accused of firing an assault rifle from the open back door of a moving vehicle and gunning down the federal officer, according to the criminal complaint.

The driver of the van, Robert Alvin Justus Jr., 30, who had met Sergeant Carrillo on Facebook, was charged with aiding and abetting the murder of Dave Patrick Underwood, 53, the officer killed in the shooting, the complaint said. Both men were also charged with the attempted murder of a second officer who was gravely wounded.

“They came to Oakland to kill cops,” John F. Bennett, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I. in San Francisco, said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Evidence tied Sergeant Carrillo to the boogaloo, an extremist ideology that seeks to bring about a second civil war to overthrow the United States government.

Sergeant Carrillo had previously been charged with the shooting death of a sheriff’s deputy in Santa Cruz County during a gun battle on June 6 that led to his arrest.

In that showdown, Sergeant Carrillo used his own blood to scrawl “Boog” and other phrases linked to the movement on the hood of the car he had stolen.

Sergeant Carrillo is the latest person tied to the movement to be arrested in recent weeks. All of them have sought to exploit protests — first against the coronavirus lockdowns and then around the death of George Floyd in police custody — to accelerate their apocalyptic vision.

The term, initially derived as an inside joke from the 1984 cult classic film “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” is used as shorthand on internet forums for a brewing second civil war.

However, boogaloo does not represent a cohesive or singular ideology. It has been connected to what some consider humorous memes, as well as with occasional physical violence and militaristic shows of force (similarly to armed militias such as the Oath Keepers or III Percenters).

The reference migrated offline from social media platforms like Reddit, 4chan and Facebook with volatile speed in recent months. Adherents often wear distinctive Hawaiian shirts, a reference to the fact that they sometimes transform their name into the “Big Luau” or the “Big Igloo.”

Subscribing to the boogaloo ultimately translates to one core tenet: a belief that the United States government has failed and that the country’s divisions, inflamed by the news media, will result in a violent internal war.

“This is a very violent movement even if they are wearing Hawaiian shirts and using funny memes to try to soften what they are doing,” said Kathleen Belew, a history professor and the author of “Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America.”

Sergeant Carrillo’s case follows the arrests last month in Las Vegas of an active-duty member of the Army and two veterans, who were charged with trying to provoke violence between the police and protesters at Black Lives Matter marches. Those men were also found to have ties to the movement.

There have been other arrests of boogaloo adherents in recent months in Colorado, Texas and Ohio, each involving plots to ambush law enforcement. In addition, followers of the movement have backed the conservative effort to reopen the Texas economy amid the coronavirus pandemic. Armed men have showed up outside some businesses to support them as they reopened in defiance of the lockdown.

The movement attracts both far-right white supremacists and some armed men who joined the Black Lives Matter protests because of their anger at the police and other symbols of government authority. The 1992 siege by federal law enforcement agents over firearms charges at Ruby Ridge in Idaho, which left two people dead, has long been a rallying cry.

Members often express admiration for training and other benefits that come with being a military veteran. Having a small number of dedicated activists corresponds to an increasing emphasis on violent activity, Ms. Belew said. “They do not want 1,000 people down in the street,” she said. “They are interested in six people who can make and detonate a bomb.”

Sergeant Carrillo was on active duty at Travis Air Force Base in Central California when the Oakland shooting occurred, according to the complaint. He had recruited Mr. Justus online.

In the scenario described by the complaint, the two men, using the distraction provided by protests in downtown Oakland, parked a Ford van directly across from the federal courthouse there. After scoping out the area, Mr. Justus drove the van toward the courthouse and Sergeant Carrillo fired multiple rounds at the guard post, killing Mr. Underwood and wounding his partner, the complaint said.

That sparked an eight-day manhunt that culminated in a shootout near Sergeant Carrillo’s residence in Ben Lomond, Calif., after a witness reported an abandoned van that appeared to contain ammunition, firearms and bomb-making equipment.

Sergeant Carillo, who grew up in the pine-covered mountains of Ben Lomond, north of Santa Cruz, had joined the Air Force in 2009, according to military records.

Deputies from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office responded to the report and arrived at the residence where Sergeant Carrillo is accused of opening fire on the deputies, killing Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller.

His lawyer in the state case, Jeffrey C. Stotter, said he had not yet been retained on the federal case but expected to be involved since both were possibly capital cases.

After Sergeant Carrillo shot Mr. Gutzwiller, according to the complaint, he fled on foot and carjacked the Toyota Camry. It was on that vehicle that he scrawled phrases in blood linked to the movement, including “I became unreasonable” and “Stop the duopoly.”

The first quote is attributed to Marvin Heemeyer, who bulldozed 13 buildings in Colorado in 2004 over a zoning dispute. Mr. Heemeyer killed himself but became a hero among antigovernment extremists who call him “Killdozer” in chat rooms.

“Stop the duopoly,” a nonviolent political phrase, refers to criticism that the Democrat and Republican Parties do not allow any room for others, such as libertarians.

Sergeant Carrillo also had a patch on his bulletproof vest of the movement’s flag, with an igloo replacing the stars plus black-and-white stripes, with one stripe a Hawaiian motif.

The F.B.I. searched Sergeant Carrillo’s Facebook accounts, where he had communicated with Mr. Justus and also expressed his violent intentions, according to the complaint.

“It’s a great opportunity to target the specialty soup bois,” Sergeant Carrillo wrote, according to the complaint. The comment was linked to a video of a crowd attacking two California Highway Patrol vehicles. On chat rooms, “bois” is often used as an alternative spelling for “boys,” and soup is shorthand for alphabet soup, which is how adherents refer collectively to federal law enforcement agencies with their many acronyms.

Manny Fernandez contributed reporting.

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