By Daniel Montes
Bay City News
A federal grand jury in San Francisco Friday indicted four men, all allegedly members of an extremist militia group, in connection with a scheme to destroy digital files and online chats linked to the 2020 murder of a federal security officer in Oakland.
In May 2020, a drive-by shooting killed federal Protective Service Officer David Patrick Underwood and wounded a second security officer outside the Federal Courthouse at 1301 Clay St. in Oakland.
The shooting led to a manhunt that ended days later, on June 6, when authorities tracked down suspect Steven Carrillo in Ben Lomond. However, a shootout resulted in Carrillo shooting and killing Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller and injuring a second deputy.
Carrillo has since been charged with murder and attempted murder, while his alleged accomplice Robert Justus Jr. faces aiding and abetting charges.
According to prosecutors, on June 6, just before the shootout took place, Jessie Rush, 29, Robert Blancas, 33, Simon Ybarra, 23, and Kenny Miksch, 21, received a message via a group chat on the mobile messaging app Whatsapp from Carrillo about a possible confrontation between him and law enforcement.
Prosecutors allege Carrillo, Rush, Blancas, Ybarra and Miksch all belonged to a militia group called the Grizzly Scouts, loosely affiliated with the so-called “Boogaloo” extremist movement, which calls for a violent uprising against the U.S. government. The Grizzly Scouts would occasionally meet in person for firearms training and also exchanged messages on Facebook and Whatsapp, repeatedly discussing ways to kill law enforcement officers.
Just before the shootout, Rush allegedly instructed Carrillo and other Grizzly Scout members to delete evidence on their phones and WhatsApp group, including conversations about committing violence on law enforcement. In addition, Blancas deleted files related to a Grizzly Scouts Dropbox account, prosecutors said.
Rush, a Turlock resident; Blancas, a transient; Ybarra, a Los Gatos resident; and Miksch, a San Lorenzo resident, have all been charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice by destroying records and with destruction of records in official proceedings. Rush has also been charged with an additional count of obstruction of official proceedings, while Blancas faces an additional count of destruction of records in official proceedings, prosecutors said.
If convicted, all four could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each conspiracy, destruction and obstruction charge.
Rush, Miksch and Ybarra made their initial appearances in federal court Friday. Blancas is set to make his initial court appearance Monday.