Willowbrook County Park
Willowbrook County Park in Aptos was officially unveiled March 13 in honor of Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, who was gunned down in June 2020 while on duty. (Tarmo Hannula)

An unveiling was held last week at the completion of Willowbrook County Park in Aptos for Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sgt. Damon Gutzwiller, who was gunned down in June 2020 while on duty.

“Our sincerest heartfelt thank you to all who contributed to the dedication of Willowbrook Park in honor of our fallen Sergeant, Damon Gutzwiller,” the Sheriff’s Office posted on social media. “Today, after years of hard work and planning, we gathered for the final unveiling of the memorial area.”

The long-standing park, on Willowbrook Lane near Cabrillo College, was a common place for Gutzwiller to visit with friends, family and his dog, Shasta. He grew up in Santa Cruz County, owned his first home in the Willowbrook neighborhood and served with the Sheriff’s Office for 14 years.

The park features benches, a kid’s play area, restrooms, new paths, signage, barbecue stations, a fountain, a new flagpole and seven metal plaques with words of honor for Gutzwiller and service to the community.

On June 6, 2020, Steven Carrillo ambushed deputies and California Highway Patrol officers in Ben Lomond, killing Gutzwiller and injuring three others.

Carrillo, 34, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in the Ben Lomond incident after being handed a 41-year federal sentence for an Oakland shooting that left one officer dead and another injured.

Carrillo worked in concert with Robert Justus, 34, of Millbrae in the May 29, 2020, Oakland attack. While Justus drove a van, Carillo operated as the shooter from the back of the van as they approached an Oakland Federal Courthouse and opened fire. 

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers handed down the sentence of life in prison to Justus last Friday for his role in the shooting.

The pair were members of an extremist group, the Boogaloo Boys, who among other things believe another Civil War is on the horizon.

The Santa Cruz County Department of Parks, Open Spaces and Cultural Services, the Santa Cruz County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, County Park Friends and Supervisor Zach Friend were behind fundraising and organizing the creation of the park.

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