A U.S. Air Force sergeant accused of orchestrating two deadly attacks on law enforcement in the Bay Area had a history of supporting right-wing extremism and the militant anti-government “boogaloo” movement online, the Mercury News reports.
On Thursday, officers confirmed that Steven Carillo has been charged with 19 felonies, including murder, attempted murder, and carjacking among others. The charges are related to Saturday’s shooting rampage across the Ben Lomond community that left a Santa Cruz County deputy dead and another critically wounded. A source close to the investigation told the outlet that Carillo is also believed to be behind an attack earlier this month where a heavily armed gunman killed a federal officer during an ambush of a federal courthouse in Oakland. The 32-year-old faces a possible life sentence, according to charging documents made public by the prosecution.
Justin Ehrhardt, a former friend of Carillo’s that served in the Air Force with him, told the Mercury News that Carillo posted several extremist messages on Facebook. In the days leading up to these shootings, he purportedly shared several memes about the “boogaloo” movement, originally a 4chan joke that has since mutated into a real-life movement and gained momentum among far-right militiamen who believe the U.S. is headed towards a second civil war.
Ehrhardt told the outlet that based on these now-deleted posts, Carillo “may have been in those types of groups and had that mindset.”
Seemingly in reference to this movement, the word “boog” was found written in blood on a car hood left behind during Saturday’s incident, per a photo a witness shared with the outlet. According to the affidavit, Carillo stole a vehicle and attempted to carjack several others after “lying in wait” for officers at his home in Ben Lomond, where he opened fire and threw pipe bombs at Santa Cruz County deputies.
“Excessive use of force on unarmed civilians — that was a huge thing for him,” Ehrhardt told the Mercury News. “It was a mental tipping point for him. If I’m going to fight for something, it’s going to be against the establishment.”
Militant groups heralding a second civil war have been popping up by the dozens on Facebook amid the covid-19 outbreak and recent protests. According to a recent report by the Tech Transparency Project, a research group focused on exposing large platforms’ misconduct, more than 72,000 users are part of Facebook groups promoting the “boogaloo” movement. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that studies extremist groups, has also tracked the use of the term “boogaloo” to white supremacists and anti-government groups of the early 2010s, who used it as slang for a supposedly inevitable “race war.”
Facebook has since begun blacklisting the term and stopped actively promoting groups that champion it or other violent calls to action.